After 17 years, the Chennai Press Club will finally hold elections for the post of office bearers in three months. This after the Madras High Court ordered elections to the press club and appointed retired judge Justice K Chandru as election commissioner. Justice MM Sundresh also observed that the current office bearers, who have been running the club since 1999 were not elected legally.
The court order comes after an acrimonious fight between different groups of journalists, all staking claim to the prestigious recreational and welfare club. Apart from not holding elections, several journalists allege maladministration, misuse of funds and lack of transparency in the running of CPC.
In 2009, R Mohan, a journalist with a Tamil daily filed a case against the Club. But with no movement in the case, another journalist, Subbaiah working for Tamil channel, Puthiya Thalaimurai impleaded in the case in 2011. âMy prayer was for elections to be held in the Press Club. As journalists we put out all issues and problems that society faces but in our own field we canât do it, then itâs hypocritical,â said Subbaiah.
In 2012, the Madras High Court ordered fresh elections to be held. But the ruling was stayed after CPCâs office bearers challenged the order.
While Subbaiah expressed happiness at Mondayâs court verdict, the journalist said he would not hesitate to go back to court if the election process is stalled. âLet whoever come after elections but we want elections to be held,â he said.
Bharati Tamilan, the Joint Secretary of CPC, refused to comment without seeing the court order. But noted that they were also for holding elections in the Club.
Meanwhile, congratulations have been pouring in for another group of scribes, who have come under the banner, âMission Press Clubâ. Prakash, a journalist with Tamil Magazine, Nakkeeran and a part of âMission Press Clubâ said, âThe Press Club is free from the clutches of a group that has been conducting illegal affairs. Democracy has been retained among journalists and the court order will encourage able journalists to come forward in the future.â He alleged that a number of issues pertaining to the welfare of journalists including wage board and pension had been kept in the backburner for several years and that the High Courtâs order will âcreate a conducive atmosphereâ for their discussion.
While elections will take place within three months, the Madras High Court has also directed Justice Chandru to verify members of the Club, who joined after 2011.
âWho manages Press Club is irrelevant. What needs to be strengthened is the journalistsâ union that is divided especially at a time when reporters are facing restrictions and defamation cases,â argued Shabbir Ahmed, a television journalist and a member of CPC. Calling it an ego clash between several senior journalists over the powerful body, Shabbir said it is high time that unions get their act together and play a major role in the welfare of journalists.
While Chennai Press Club will now finally see elections, last held in 1999, journalists like Shabbir and Prakash point out that other unions in the state also face allegations of lack of democratic functioning. âI don't remember when was the last time elections were conducted for journalistsâ unions. As far as I am concerned the role of Press Club is limited and need of the hour is to democratise and strengthen Journalists unions in the State,â noted Shabbir.