ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Lament to Remember

A Lament to Remember Nireekshak THE annual report of the Bombay Union of Journalists for 1969 contains certain observations which are remarkable for their frankness. They have undoubtedly a relevance beyond the confines of the profession in Bombay. It is rarely that a Journalists' organisation blames journalists for their many plights. The annual report under review is quite severe on its members when it says that the "utter apathy displayed by them towards their own cause'' is the main reason for their "miserable" conditions of life. "A parasytic interest a section of them have developed in extra-journalistic activities, not necessarily above board all the time, a growing tendency to find a place for oneself in the good books of the management to secure narrow self-aggrandisement,'' the report says, " are some of the basic weaknesses threatening the profession." CORE, OF THE PROBLEM This observation has, I think, touched, probably unconsciously, the core of the problem that journalists face all over the country: the problem of professionalism. It would not be untrue to say that though journalism has acquired the status of a profession, there are few things that bind journalists together other than the accident that all of them happen to practice the same profession. Neither the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ) nor the All-India Newspaper Editors Conference (AINEC), the two most prominent journalist bodies, the latter albeit a management-sponsored organisation, has thought fit to evolve a code of professional conduct that journalists may usefully adopt to regulate their relations with fellow journalists, The result is, as the BUJ report points out, a scramble for the favours of employers without regard to its consequences for fellow journalists involved or concern for, what may be termed, fair professional conduct At some stage journalists ought to ask themselves whether their responsibility towards fellow professionals is not at least as great as their individual responsibility to those who employ them. And if it is agreed that intra-profes- slon camaraderie is a worthwhile object to pursue, as in the case of other professions like medicine and law, then it should be possible to lay down norms of professional conduct which would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for a journalist to undercut another or to take unfair advantage of a fellow professional in the search for professional advancement. Surely, it should be possible for journalists to agree on what is fair professional conduct in a given situation. "It is a matter of shame,'' says the BUJ report, "that instead of mobilising their might to build a militant organisation which would bring them benefits, some working journalists have developed mean tend- encies to depend on the small mercies of their employers or the powers that be.'' Perhaps the first thing is to ensure that no one who is not a member of a professional journalistic organisation is allowed to hold journalistic appointments in any newspaper. This is in the interest not only of journalists but also of the owners of newspapers themselves. The next step should be to evolve an agreed code of professional conduct whose observance will be obligatory on all journalists. It would not be long then before some kind of a national register of journalists comes into being. Since AINEC by its very structure is not well placed to undertake this task, it should primarily be a matter for IFWJ to pursue. The Press Council, too, may be enlisted to help in the process or, indeed, to become the custodian of the code in question.

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