Press Council of India Chairman Justice Shri Chandramauli Kumar Prasad has sought the response of the Finance Ministry over the complaint of restricting the entry of media persons. He is also seeking the response of the state governments where the entry of media persons has been restricted.
Justice Prasad told this to a joint delegation of the National Union of Journalists (India), Delhi Journalists Association (DJA) and Delhi Chapter of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ) that called on him at his office. The delegation comprised of NUJ (I) National President Shri Ashok Malik, DJA President Shri Manohar Singh, DJA general secretary Shri Pramod Kumar; and Shri Rajeev Ranjan Nag, Ira Jha and Habib Akhtar from the IFWJ.
“We have received representations from various media organisations on this issue. Complaints have come before the PCI earlier also regarding some state governments restricting the entry of media persons. PCI has asked the report from the departments concerned in this matter,” Justice Prasad added.
The delegation apprised the Press Council chairman of how media persons are being denied access to the offices of some state governments, including the Government of NCT of Delhi. The case of the Union Finance Ministry is quite recent, the entry of media persons was banned in Delhi Secretariat since the formation of the Aam Adami Party government in 2015. The delegation urged the PCI Chairman to intervene in the matter so that the restrictions are lifted forthwith.
“Media persons all over the country and particularly in the national capital are deeply concerned over the attempts from the of Governments to deny them access to sources of information. It goes without saying that openness helps good governance and it must be reciprocated by those granted access to chambers of government. Departments and ministries can legitimately expect that journalists should behave with restraint and responsibility to justify such access to offices of the Ministry. However, we are against a blanket bar on media access,” the memorandum said.
The memorandum further said: “Journalists need access to information as public servants to perform their challenging job of news gathering and informing the public at large. We, in our organisations, are of the opinion that such bar on media freedoms can result in a further fall in India’s global press freedom rankings, especially as the contagion can easily spread to other Ministries as well. If the Finance Ministry thinks that media access to government offices has created some issues and that needs to be reviewed, this could be done in discussions with the media bodies and the Press Council of India. We request the Finance Minister to reconsider her decision and withdraw this bar forthwith. We also request the Press Council of India to kindly intervene in this matter so that the media persons get an unrestricted entry in all government offices across the country.”