Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Editors Guild of India held on 26 September, 2020
Time and Date : 10:30 am. Saturday, September 26, 2020.
Attendees: Shekhar Gupta, A.K. Bhattacharya, Sheela Bhatt, Rajesh Badal, Narasimhan Ravi, Vijay Naik, Anil Choubey, Rakesh Pathak, Kalyani Shankar, Prabhu Chawla, Shahid Siddiqui, Shashi Shekhar,TN Ninan, Aakar Patel, Alok Joshi, Alok Mehta, Amit Baruah, Anant Nath, Ashok Tandon, Ashutosh, Bharat Bhushan, Brajesh Kumar Singh, Chaitanya Kalbag, Coomi Kapoor, Dibang, Kh. Athouba, Hari Jaising, Harish Khare, Jawid Laiq, Jayant Mammen Mathew, John Dayal, Jyoti Malhotra, K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, K V Prasad, Krishna Prasad, Madhav Nalapat, Malini Parathasarathy, Mukund Padmanabhan, Mythili Bhusnurmath, Nandagopal Rajan, Naresh Fernandes, Nidheesh Tyagi, Paresh Nath, Patricia Mukhim, Prakash Dube, S. Prasannarajan, Q W Naqvi, Raj Chengappa, Rajdeep Sardesai, Ruben Banerjee, Sanjay Pugalia, Sanjay Kapoor, Seema Mustafa, Shahid Faridi, Shaji Vikraman, Shakeel Ahmed, Shashi Shekhar, Shravan Kumar, Shrenik Rao, Sugata Srinivasaraju, Supriya Prasad, Suresh Bafna, Umesh Updadhyay, Vijay Joshi, Vipin Pubby, YP Rajesh, Raghavan Srinivasan
The AGM began at 10:30 am. Assembled members of 67, more than the required quorum of 10 members, logged into the first-ever digital AGM in the history of the Guild, subject to regulatory clearance.
The General Secretary, A.K. Bhattacharya, began the AGM by welcoming all the members and requesting them to observe a minute’s silence as a mark of their respect to all the editors who have passed away since the holding of the last AGM. He then presented his report for the last year (copy appended below). He also referred to the formation of the committee headed by Prabhu Chawla during the 2019 AGM to review the Guild’s Constitution, the wide range of statements released by the Guild, the status of accounts circulated earlier by Sheela Bhatt, the current membership status and most importantly the next steps needed in order to elect a returning officer to facilitate the election of new office-bearers. He also referred to the current feedback system and the need for greater involvement among the Guild members on substantive issues.
The President, Mr Shekhar Gupta, thanked the office-bearers and spoke about how the Guild’s stature was upheld and its cohesion maintained. He pointed out how all the compliance issues have been addressed like the need to have a registered address. The President further added to the General Secretary’s point reiterating the need for increased involvement of all members in the Guild’s efforts and affairs as well as the need for a sustained flow of resources and revenue for the Guild in the future.
The Treasurer, Sheela Bhatt, appealed to the members to approve the audited accounts. K S Sachidananda Murthy proposed that the audited accounts be approved. Q W Naqwi seconded this proposal. The audited accounts were adopted.
The office-bearers brought up the need for legal compliance to hold an election digitally for the new team.
Several members expressed their gratitude to the outgoing office-bearers as well as concerns.
Prakash Dube raised a few organisational and professional concerns regarding follow-up and responsiveness to members’ requests to the office-bearers. He also underlined the need for broad-basing the activities of the Guild.
Ashutosh expressed concerns over the Guild’s responsibility in supporting the demand for ensuring safety of journalists in India. He also posed a question on the need for defining the role of the Guild.
Shahid Siddiqui endorsed this, suggesting that there be more representation from regional language newspapers.
Rajesh Badal was in agreement with this view.
Vijay Naik proposed that a returning officer along with an election committee be appointed to conduct the elections.
Krishna Prasad seconded Shahid Siddiqui and underlined the need for recognising and appreciating journalists, when they win awards.
Rajdeep Sardesai expressed concerns over maintaining the integrity of the democratic process if elections were to be held virtually.
Prabhu Chawla proposed a broad-based, three-member committee to conduct the elections and suggested names to be picked during this AGM instead of a consensus.
Coomi Kapoor supported Rajdeep Sardesai and suggested an informal sounding out of members, who could be elected as new office-bearers.
Agreeing with Prabhu Chawla, John Dayal suggested that there was merit in having more than one returning officer and preferred a three-member committee.
Rakesh Pathak also raised the issue of safety of journalists and the need to have greater representation of regional language newspapers in the affairs of the Guild.
Shashi Shekhar proposed the formation of a three-member committee as the way forward.
Brajesh Kumar Singh appreciated the manner in which membership concerns were addressed, but broadly suggested the need for greater responsiveness on the part of the Guild.
Alok Mehta reminded members of the rich tradition of the Guild and underlined the need to live up to its expectations.
Alok Joshi also expressed the view that the Guild must respond to the current challenges the media was facing.
Q W Naqvi brought to light that most of the members’ concerns centred around the objectives of the Guild which should be well-defined and aimed at protecting the Constitutional values and standards of the Guild as also of the media. He also agreed with the proposal of a three-member committee.
TN Ninan suggested that if returning officers were to be appointed to hold the elections, there would be a vacuum till such time the elections were completed and suggested that the current office-bearers should be continued till the election of a new team.
Prakash Dube suggested that till the elections are completed the current office-bearers should be treated as “lame duck”. Ashutosh and others opposed the proposal of Prakash Dube.
It was agreed that the election process should be completed within 30 days and till the time the elections are completed and a new team of office-bearers is in place, the current team of office-bearers should remain in office. It was also proposed that the team of election officers would ensure all due compliance of the rules and regulations in force for holding virtual elections. This composite proposal was made by Rajesh Badal and it was seconded by Alok Joshi. It was adopted.
After consultation, Rajdeep Sardesai, Q W Naqvi and K S Sachidananda Murthy were appointed as members of the election committee by consensus. The team was entrusted with the responsibility of holding the elections by mail after ensuring necessary legal compliance.
The time frame to conduct the election through a secret ballot was decided to be 30 days ending on October 25, 2020.
The treasurer, Ms. Sheela Bhatt proposed a vote of thanks.
General Secretary’s Report
Good morning. Dear President, Dear Treasurer , Members of the Executive Committee and All members!
Welcome to you all! I think we have over 60 members already on this Zoom link. The quorum is there. We can, therefore, proceed with the meeting, subject of course to the clearance of the Delhi Registrar of Societies, which is yet to formulate clear guidelines on the holding of AGMs and elections for societies on a virtual platform.
Starting the proceedings of the day, may I request all members to observe a minute’s silence as a mark of our respect of editors who passed away since we last met in a general body meeting.
May I also request that all members should mute themselves so that the sound is audible.
Welcome once again to the Annual General Meeting of the Editors Guild of India. This is the first time in the history of the Guild that we had to hold our AGM on a digital format. Let us hope the Covid-19 situation gets better to obviate the need for holding such digital meetings in the coming days.
The following is my report for the period since we last held our AGM on December 18, 2019.
The last AGM was held on the same day that we organised the Rajendra Mathur Memorial Lecture. The lecture was delivered by former President Pranab Mukherjee. The address was well received in general. As a departure from past practice, we made sure that Mrs Mathur joined us on the stage when the chief guest delivered his address.
An important decision was taken at the last AGM. A committee, headed by Mr Prabhu Chawla, was formed to review the Guild’s Constitution. The report was submitted in good time. The Committee’s other members were Ms Kalyani Shankar, Mr Alok Mehta and Mr Naresh Fernandes. The report of the committee was circulated by Mr Chawla among members on February 1, 2020. On September 17, the Committee’s report was circulated by the Guild again reminding members that they should send their comments and views. No comments have been received so far. With the new office bearers expected to take charge after this AGM, we believe that the next course of action on this report should be initiated by the new team.
Since the last AGM in December 2019, the Guild issued about a dozen statements on a wide range of issues. These included statements condemning attacks on journalists on duty, police atrocities against journalists, misuse of criminal laws to intimidate journalists, the government’s approach to the media and irresponsible statements made by government functionaries. The comments made pertained to developments taking place across the country.
We also held an executive committee meeting on June 15, 2020, where we resolved that we will try to ascertain the legal tenability of holding an AGM on a digital platform. The rules are still not clear. Hence, there were some apprehensions about holding elections through a Zoom meeting and our preference for the consensus route. But since many members believe that elections would help, we have no problem in appointing a Returning Officer, who could initiate the election formalities. The Returning Officer should also take the responsibility of holding a legally compliant election. Later in the meeting, we would request the members to appoint a returning officer to do the honours.
A few words about our accounts need to be mentioned here. The audited accounts were sent to all members on August 16, 2020, which my colleague Treasurer Sheela Bhatt will present to the AGM for your approval. The accounts will reflect the expenditure burden the Guild now carries because of its own office and a functioning website. The two-year tenure of this team saw the creation of these two important assets for the Guild. Also, over 50 new members were added. This is probably the biggest membership drive in recent times. Our membership today is over 200. But the increase in current expenditure, necessary for any functioning association like ours, must not be frowned upon. Instead we need to look at revenue sources to meet the current expenditure.
Before this report comes to an end, it will be important for us dwell on an important issue. The feedback mechanism as well as involvement quotient for members have remained well below par for all substantive issues. For instance, on August 1, 2019, a draft code on practice for journalists was sent to our members. No response has come to this till now. At the last AGM, a handful of our members, barely enough to get the quorum, were present. The attendance was even less for the Rajendra Mathur Memorial Lecture. The list can be long. But I would urge that just as many members have shown great enthusiasm for elections for the office-bearers, they should take keener interest in the other substantive affairs of the Guild.
I will now request the President to make his statement and after which the Treasurer will make her observations. And then we could decide on appointing a returning officer for the elections to help the new office-bearers step into our shoes.
Over to the President.