MUMBAI -- Attacking on-duty journalists and the media houses in Maharashtra was made today a non-bailable offence entailing a jail term up to three years on conviction.
The bill aimed at preventing attacks on media persons and establishments was passed by Maharashtra assembly without a discussion in absence of the opposition members and unanimously by the state legislative council.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis introduced the 'Maharashtra Mediapersons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017,' in the Assembly, which passed it without discussions.
The bill provides for the prevention of violence against on-duty journalists and the damage or loss of their property and those of media houses in the state.
As per its provisions, anyone who commits or attempts to commit or abets/instigates or provokes the commission of any act of violence against journalists or media houses, shall be punished with jail terms up to three years or with a fine up to ₹50,000 or with both.
The offence shall be cognisable, non-bailable and triable by a first class judicial magistrate. A police officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police shall investigate any offence under the Act.
According to the legislation, the offender shall be liable to pay compensation for damage or loss caused to the property of the media person or the media house as determined by the court.
The assailant would also be liable to reimburse the medical expenditure incurred by the media persons in attack.
A media institution has been defined as any registered newspaper, news channel, news-based electronic outlet or news station establishment.
A media person means a person, whose principal vocation is that of a journalist, who is employed as a journalist, whether on regular or contract basis. The media person is defined as editor, sub-editor, news editor, reporter, correspondent, cartoonist, news photographer, TV cameraman, lead-writer, feature writer, copy tester and proof reader.
Fadnavis said there was a strong demand for such a law in view of the "rampant instances" of violence and attacks against media persons and damage to the property of media houses.
"There was a need to enact a special law to effectively curb such incidents and protect media persons, their property and that of media houses," said Fadnavis, who also heads the Home Department.
Hailing the legislation, the Mumbai Press Club said it was a historic day for the media fraternity.
"We thank Fadnavis for providing us with a legal deterrent which will be effective in ensuring safe working conditions for the working journalists.
"Henceforth, we will expect the law enforcement agencies to apply the law whenever needed to bring the accused to book," the Club said.
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