The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), the premier Central institution for journalism education, is considering whether to adopt Central Civil Services (CCS) Rules — meant for government employees — for its faculty members for disciplinary cases. The IIMC’s Executive Council (EC) will discuss this in its meeting on Friday, according to an agenda note.
A section of faculty members argue that this is a way to curb dissent and erode “academic freedom”. Three MPs from the Janata Dal(United) also wrote to I&B Minister Smriti Irani on July 26 expressing their apprehension over the move, among other things.
The CCS Rules 1964 say, “No Government servant shall, in any radio broadcast, telecast through any electronic media or in any document published in his own name or anonymously, pseudonymously or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance, make any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central Government or a State Government.”
The agenda note reads: “A Committee was constituted by DG, IIMC, with a view to strengthen, expand, elaborate and revise provisions related to Code of Conduct, Professional ethics and Disciplinary matters in the Bye Laws of the IIMC. During the Committee meetings, there was a suggestion that the Central Government\’s CCS Conduct Rules may be adopted by IIMC as such along with all other procedural rules such as CCS (CCA Rules) to cover the disciplinary cases.”
The agenda note says that some faculty members were not in favour of its adoption arguing that “media have to perform a role of watchdog”. However, it adds, “IIMC is not a media organization acting as watchdog but a media institute and, therefore, this contention of the faculty member cannot be accepted.”
“The Committee felt that instead of re-writing the Bye-Laws of the IIMC, a clause may be inserted that wherever IIMC Bye-Laws are silent, the Institute will follow the rules of the Central Government. This will also eliminate possibilities of discretion and ambiguities in interpretation while dealing with the cases,” the agenda note says.
JD(U) MPs Ali Anwar Ansari, Kahkashan Perween and Ramnath Thakur have in their letter to Irani also mentioned that the administration was trying to “impose” CCS rules. “Is the attempt to snatch academic freedom of faculty members at higher educational institutions, and especially at institutes of journalism, justified?” they have written.
A faculty member of IIMC said it would be a “transparent contradiction that journalism/media faculty are not allowed to express their opinion and critique on public policy and other relevant social, political and economic issues in the media”.
“IIMC’s Recruitment Rules for faculty allow senior journalists and editors to apply for faculty positions. But do we expect that a senior editor of a newspaper or news channel after appointment as faculty in IIMC should stop writing and commenting on contemporary issues?” he said.
Professor Jaishri Jethwaney, member of the Committee until October 2016, before she retired, said she didn’t think the Committee submitted a report per se. “It was decided that viewpoints would be sought from a larger group… There were apprehensions because these rules belong to file pushers and not academicians,” she said.
IIMC DG K G Suresh said he could not comment on agenda items of the EC until they had been discussed in the meeting.