Under fire over press freedom, Odisha announces sops for journalists

 Under fire over press freedom, Odisha announces sops for journalists

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Under fire from the Editors Guild of India over allegations of muzzling press freedom, the Naveen Patnaik government on Thursday amended the Odisha State Working Journalists Welfare Fund Rules making provisions for payment of ex-gratia for the families of working journalists in case of their death as well as financial assistance for treatment of ailments related to kidney and heart.

The information and public relations department of the state which gives press accreditation to journalists in Bhubaneswar and district headquarters, said, it has amended the rules for providing ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the near and dear of a working journalist in the event of his death. Under the new rules, financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh would be given to working journalists in the event of permanent incapacitation on account of accident, disease or any other reason.

The department said in the event of death of a working journalist, financial assistance to the children of the deceased would be provided up to Rs. 1,500/- per month till matriculation and up to Rs 2,500/- per month for higher education. This recurring financial assistance would be provided towards payment of actual tuition fees and expenditure towards study materials.

Top up financial assistance, in addition to health insurance benefit would be sanctioned for treatment of ailments related to heart, kidney and cancer or other critical illness suffered by a working Journalist or any of his/her family members where the expenditure exceeds Rs 2 lakh health insurance benefit.

Apart from this, a 3% interest subvention with a maximum limit of Rs 25 lakh would be given on home loans. The interest subvention would be released annually after repayment of regular instalments by the journalist. Similarly, an interest subvention of 3% would be given for two-wheeler loans with a cap of Rs 50,000 and a similar interest subvention for four-wheeler loan with a cap of Rs 4 lakh would be given to each working journalist.

The sops for journalists came a month after Editors Guild of India had expressed its concern over the action taken by Odisha government against popular TV channel Odisha Television Limited and its senior journalist Ramesh Rath, who was picked up by police near his home and interrogated in a case of morphed video of Keonjhar MP. Rath later resigned from the channel.

Expressing its displeasure over the manner in which the government and its agencies acted, the Guild said such acts undermined the independent functioning of media organisations. The Guild, in its executive committee meeting early this month, had said it would set up a fact finding panels to assess media freedom issues in regions and states like Odisha, Kashmir, Telangana and UP where such rights have allegedly been compromised.

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