Now, Katju wants to oversee, regulate journalism institutes

A day after drawing media flak for setting up a committee to prescribe minimum qualification for journalists, Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju on Wednesday said the panel shall also suggest ways to “supervise and regulate” the functioning of journalism institutes.

“A large number of institutions and departments of journalism have mushroomed in our country, many of which are wholly unsatisfactory, neither having proper teaching staff nor infrastructure,” he said in a statement here on Wednesday. There was “dire and pressing need” to supervision and regulate these institutions and departments.
“Hence, the committee constituted by me yesterday shall, in addition to its mandate of recommending qualifications for journalists, also recommend in what manner the PCI can supervise and regulate the functioning of the institutions and departments of journalism so that high standards are maintained,” he added.

The move drew sharp criticism from media circles with some dubbing it as muzzling the press. “Katju reminds me of Emergency days when government tried to muzzle press freedom. Now, Katju wants to inhibit the media which is abhorrent,” secretary general of the Editors Guild of India Vijay Naik told Deccan Herald, reacting to the move.

Remains unfazed

Katju, however, remained unmoved by the criticism.

“Section 13 of the Press Council Act states that it is the duty of the PCI to maintain and improve the standards of journalism. In my opinion, this broad power would include supervision and regulation of institutions and departments of journalisms,” he added.

Taking exception to the qualification committee set up by Katju, Naik said the mandate of the PCI was to hear and redress grievances of Press violation of ethics and challenge to freedom of expression, and not to fix minimum qualification for journalists. 

“The PCI is not like University Grants Commission, which sets standards for universities,” he said.

Naik argued that it was up to the media houses to judge eligibility of aspiring journalists based on their qualification and aptitude. “If minimum qualification is fixed, there can be no citizen journalists,” he added.

The PCI, set up by the government, has examined various aspects of the functioning of the media in the past but no minimum qualification was sought to be fixed for journalists, South Asia Media Commission president K K Katyal said.

“Such a practise is not followed anywhere in the world. If such moves are allowed, the next step would be to  demand government regulation of the media,” he said, urging that the Council’s initiative should be “abandoned without delay”.

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