INDIA: Tripura editors agitate against low ad rates, arrested

Tripura Newspaper Society secretary says with absence of corporations in the state and low advertisement rates, the government's plan to cut government advertising will adversely affect employees in newspaper industry

The Times of India
Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Agartala --- Editors of all newspapers published from Tripura were arrested on Monday for staging a demonstration in front of the Assembly. They were seeking a change in the advertisement guidelines introduced by the state government in 2009.

No sooner had the House begun its business for the first day of its monsoon session than the editors and newspaper executives, under the banner of the Tripura Newspaper Society (TNS), gathered outside it and started shouting slogans against the advertisement guidelines, which they described as "anti-media".

The editors were later sent to court, which granted them bail. This was for the first time that editors were arrested in the Communist-ruled state.

The new guidelines that came into effect from January 1 curtailed 40 per cent of advertisements to newspapers. TNS officials claimed that advertisement rates in Tripura were perhaps the lowest in the country. "In Assam, the highest rate is Rs 139 per column cm, while in Tripura it's only Rs 22," said Arun Nath, editor of a local daily and secretary of the TNS.

He said, "In the absence of industries and corporate sectors in Tripura, newspapers -- both dailies and weeklies -- depend heavily on government advertisements. But with the new guidelines, the government wants to curtail the flow of advertisements to newspapers. This will severely affect the revenue and thousands of families who are dependent on the newspaper industry."

The arrests of the editors caused ruffles in the media circles. Many of their colleagues were seen gathering at the West Agartala police station where a group of Congress MLAs went to meet them. In the second half of the session, the Congress raised the issue in the Assembly and staged a walkout.