At around 5.45 pm today, police personnel posted at Singhu border, one of the sites of the ongoing farmer protest, refused entry to the media.
"Enough, now no more media people will enter," said a police inspector while instructing police personnel standing near the entry barricade.
When this reporter approached one of the cops to ask whether the media was not being allowed, they asked to see a press card. When the press card was produced, one of the policemen said: "But it's not a national media authorised press card."
But what, exactly, is a "national media authorised press card"? The policeman, who refused to reveal his name or designation, merely walked away in response, saying: "You just can't go in now."
For the last two months, journalists have been allowed into the Singhu protest site after showing their press cards. After the violence during the farmers' tractor rally on Republic Day, the security at Singhu was tightened. As a consequence, journalists were required to show their press cards at four or five separate checkpoints, travel a 1.5 km detour, and only then enter the site.
The Delhi police also dug large crater-like holes on the road to prevent the free movement of farmers, journalists and farmers, both into and out of the protest site.
This morning, Newslaundry's team was permitted to enter the protest site but was turned away at 6 pm. Entry to journalists was barred from the very first barricade. When asked if this was an official media ban, an officer who refused to be named said, "No, it's not an official ban. You can go till the last police checkpoint but you can't go inside the protest now."
It's not clear whether this is a blanket decision for all media personnel throughout the day, or whether it applies only in the evening. Importantly, accreditation cards are required only to enter government buildings or government-sponsored programmes, not public protest spaces.
Lawyer Gautam Bhatia told Newslaundry: "“If the police are doing this without any written legal order, this is a clear overstepping of police authority."
On February 3, NDTV reported that the media's entry has been "restricted" at Singhu border.