Left leaning panel sweeps Press Club polls; ‘All institutions have not failed,’ says president-elect Lakhera

At a time when India’s ranking on the Press Freedom Index is in continuous decline and the Modi government has faced severe criticism for stifling media freedom, the results of recently-held elections at the Press Club of India (PCI) have come as a glimmer of hope.

As per the results, the left leaning panel led by senior journalist Umakant Lakhera has won all 21 seats which includes executive committee members after a fierce fight.

The panel included Manoranjan Bharti for vice-president, Vinay Kumar for secretary general, Swati Mathur for joint secretary and Chander Shekhar Luthra for treasurer’s post.

Talking to NH, Lakhera, the president-elect, thanked the media fraternity for “standing up against right wing onslaught on media”.

“The victory shows that all institutions have not failed. Journalists fought back for values…against suppression of media freedom, their dignity and government’s attack on the institution,” he said.

“In last 8 years many journalists were jailed, many were harassed for writing against the government…The government has barred media from entering Parliament, ministries and tried to stop journalists from reporting,” said Lakhera, adding, “Modi government maintained studied silence when journalists were attacked and harassed”.

The results of PCI elections assume significance because the right-wing panel led by Sanjay Basak had left no stone unturned to win the elections, with even some BJP leaders and spokesmen campaigning for it. A BJP spokesperson who tweeted in favor of the Basak panel, however, later deleted the tweet.

It is worth noting here that the left leaning panel has maintained its dominance over the PCI politics. In 2021, the Lakhera-led panel won with a huge margin. While Umakant Lakhera was elected as president, Shahid Abbas was elected vice-president. Vinay Kumar bagged the post of general secretary, and Chander Shekhar Luthra joint secretary.

Last year Sudhi Ranjan Sen – from the challenging panel – won the post of treasurer.

Founded in 1957 by Durga Das, the Press Club of India holds an important place in the history of post-independence India. One of the oldest organizations of its kind in the country, the PCI is led by an annually elected executive body, which consists of a president, vice president, secretary-general, joint secretary and treasurer along with 16 members of the managing committee.

As of 2021, it had around 4,200 active members, 900 associate members and a few dozen corporate members, making it the largest body of journalists in India.

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