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Congress’ Manish Tewari urges I&B minister Javadekar

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File image of Congress MP Manish Tewari | Photo: ANI via Lok Sabha TV
File image of Congress MP Manish Tewari | Photo: ANI via Lok Sabha TV


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New Delhi: Congress MP and former Union minister Manish Tewari has written a letter to Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, requesting that the ministry issue an advisory to all media outlets “to not retrench their employees and to pay their salaries on time”.

Tewari’s letter comes in the face of recent reports that journalists from leading English and Hindi media outlets were being let go due to the panic over the Covid-19 lockdown and its economic cost.

Tewari was Union minister of state with independent charge of information and broadcasting under the UPA-II government between 2012 and 2014, and said in his letter that the lockdown must not become an “excuse” for firing journalists.

“I do understand that these are tough times, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown cannot be an excuse for firing people considering that it has been only three weeks since the lockdown began,” he wrote.

Speaking to ThePrint, Tewari said: “My letter to Prakash Javadekar is not organisation-specific or news channel-specific. It is to flag, and try to stop, a broader trend across the industry which has been triggered.”


Also read: How providing an essential service made ThePrint’s journalist a prisoner in her hostel room


What media houses have done so far

There have been several reports of journalists being sacked or asked to take pay cuts in the last few days.

Outlook magazine has stopped its print publication. On 30 March, its editor-in-chief Ruben Banerjee put out a public note, stating: “We are announcing a temporary suspension of the print edition of Outlook magazine with immediate effect.”

Meanwhile, The Indian Express has asked employees to take pay cuts. On 1 April, in an email to employees, CEO George Varghese wrote: “Vendors are insecure, RWAs (Resident Welfare Association) are insecure, the rail, road and air lockdown has grounded distribution, businesses are shut down, we have been compelled to reduce print orders in all centres.”

On 10 April, Hindi News channel News Nation fired its entire English digital team of 15 journalists, despite the Narendra Modi government’s advisory urging public and private companies to not cut salaries or fire people during the lockdown.

A report by Newslaundry said the employees were neither given a notice of termination nor were they allowed to serve their notice period. Employees are being offered a month’s basic salary as severance. It also claimed that the News Nation editor-in-chief Manoj Gairola said: “The company is going through a financial crisis due to the pandemic so we have to do this.”

The Times of India has also allegedly sacked its entire Sunday magazine team. In a Facebook post, journalist Nona Walia claimed: “The entire team of Sunday magazine of Times of India asked to leave. Got a call from my boss Poonam Singh. Sacked after 24 years from a company I served with love for more than two decades. Wow.”

Moreover, about half the employees working at The Quint, a digital media website, have been sent on leave without pay. A newsroom note accessed by ThePrint stated: “We are forced to request you to proceed on a ‘furlough’ (ie, leave without pay, LWP) wef the 15th of April, until further notice. Your pay for the half-month, from April 1 through 15, shall be processed and released very soon.”

Hindustan Times Marathi will also allegedly close its operations from 30 April. However, this hasn’t been confirmed so far.


Also read: ‘Let media play its role’ — Editors Guild urges police not to impede journalists’ work


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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