Media outlets in Manipur have decided to stop publishing all news related to the BJP-led state government with immediate effect from Sunday, over an issue of unpaid and overdue bills.
According to the statement issued by the journalists’ committees and unions of Manipur, which was accessed by Silverscreen India, the ban will continue until the pending bills are paid or until they reach an understanding with the parties concerned.
The decision was made at a joint meeting on Saturday evening at Imphal between newspaper publishers, editors, representatives of the Editors Guild Manipur, Manipur Hill Journalists’ Union (MHJU), and All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU).
On April 15, publishers and the aforementioned unions and committees had made an appeal to the state government and the state units of BJP and Congress, to clear all pending bills with respect to advertisements by 4 pm on Saturday.
When the bill payment was not cleared on the said date, the media bodies held the meeting on Sunday. The boycott was announced after the state government failed to clear the bills despite several assurances from the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of the state.
The statement also mentioned that the media bodies had suspended an earlier boycott call, following the personal intervention of the above-mentioned government representatives.
“Bills running into crores of rupees are pending with the government, while bills running into lakhs for advertisements created for the recent assembly elections, have been pending with respect to both the ruling party and the opposition,” the statement said.
“Media houses in Manipur are reeling from financial strain, following the pandemic and the rising costs of news production,” it added, noting that they had appealed to the government to take a sympathetic view of the situation to avoid the confrontation.
“However, following no response from the state, through the course of the meeting, we have decided to go ahead with the boycott. In the case of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee of the Indian National Congress, the meeting resolved to provide some time, following assurances given by its President,” the statement further read.
The media boycott will apply to all news stories related to the ruling parties of BJP and Naga People’s Front and the Manipur state government. It will also apply to all government advertisements, including those of corporations like the Loktak Development Authority.
However, the media ban excludes reportage on the offices of the Governor, the Speaker, Covid-19 and pandemic-related news like medical emergencies. Crime-related stories and those about law and order are also exempted from the boycott.