Controversy over new press club has Goa media in a tizzy

Panaji, March 11 (IANS) Simmering tensions have emerged within the media fraternity in Goa, with the emergence of a new ‘press club’ in the coastal state.

A ‘press club’ is normally perceived as a watering hole for journalists and often an oasis of subsidised liquor, but the newly instituted ‘Press Club Goa’, spearheaded by the head of state BJP’s Ex-Servicemen Cell Anant Joshi, has triggered a turf war between sections of the local media.

In a letter to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Rajtilak Naik, president of the Goa Union Of Journalists, a several decades-old media body, has raised doubts about the Club, citing presence of non-journalists and politically connected individuals in the latter’s roster of membership.

“We would like to bring to your notice the formation of an organisation called ‘Press Club Goa’. This has been done by a former naval officer Anant Joshi, along with a few non-journalists…” Naik said in a letter to Sawant on Thursday.

“The formation of Press Club Goa by non-journalists and politically connected individuals has raised doubts and fear among the journalist fraternity in Goa. Anant Joshi is the chairperson of the Ex-Serviceman cell of the BJP, Goa,” the letter also says.

For decades now, the Goa Union of Journalists has served as an umbrella body for working journalists groupings in the state and comprises of 300-plus members.

Naik in his letter has also objected to prompt government largesse to the Press Club Goa in his complaint to Sawant.

“Within six months of its formation, the GUJ understands that Press Club Goa has received funds from the state government. The Goa Union of Journalists condemns this act and requests the state government to stop funding this body, which does not consist of journalists or represents journalists in Goa,” Naik said.

When contacted, Anant Joshi, who serves as the secretary-general of the newly formed Club, said that his association with a political party should have no bearing on his credentials as a journalist, citing the example of Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, who also serves as the executive editor of the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’.

“Sanjay Raut is a politician, but he is also a journalist. I can cite several more examples,” Joshi said, adding that he was currently working as a managing editor of ‘Nitya Samay’, a little known Hindi publication in Goa.

When asked about the charge levelled against him, about heading a press club for journalists when he was appointed in February this year, as convenor of the ruling BJP’s ex servicemen cell at a formal ceremony by state BJP president Sadanand Shet Tanavade, Joshi said: “They do not know actual facts. I may be present there (at the event), but that does mean I have membership of any party”.

Joshi said that the Press Club Goa currently had a membership of 150 members, most of whom work as rural correspondents in Goa and added that the objective of the Club was different from a journalists’ union.

“Our idea was not to form a union. Our intention behind starting a club was welfare activity of mediapersons,” he said, adding that the Club would serve on the lines of the popular Mumbai Press Club and the Press Club of India in Delhi.

–IANS
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