Three days before the inauguration of the new Parliament building, the Press Club of India has once again demanded that restrictions on the entry of journalists be removed.
“These curbs are part of a wider agenda aimed at controlling the media and restricting freedom of press,” PCI representatives wrote in their letter to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla on Thursday, pointing to restrictions that have continued since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Newslaundry had earlier reported how various media associations, including the Press Club of India, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Association, the Delhi Union of Journalists, and the Working News Cameramen’s Association, had demanded an end to the restrictions. Read all about it .
Signed by club president Umakant Lakhera and secretary general Vinay Kumar, the letter on Thursday called the lottery system to grant access to journalists as arbitrary and said a “pick-and-choose policy” undermines the “principles of fairness and equal access to information”. “A large number of journalists are being denied the opportunity to cover Parliament proceedings despite having permanent press gallery passes… these are superfluous restrictions having no logical basis or rationale,” the letter read.
“As the restriction on entry of the journalists in Parliament is supported with no tangible reason or argument, we strongly feel that these curbs are part of a wider agenda aimed at controlling the media and restricting freedom of press in order to impede free flow of independent news stories and information to the people of largest democracy of the world.”
It also demanded that the dysfunctional Lok Sabha Press Advisory Committee be reconstituted with immediate effect.
The letter further said, “These restrictions have not only impeded the media's ability to report on Parliamentary proceedings but have also severed the vital line of communication between government, media and parliamentarians… such hindrance obstructs the democratic exchange of ideas, limits public discourse, and weakens the accountability and transparency of the parliamentary system.”
It also cited the World Health Organization, saying that the UN agency declared on May 5 this year that Covid-19 was no longer a global health emergency.
Speaking to Newslaundry, Umakant Lakhera said, “With the inauguration of the new Parliament building, the government is emphasising on the vibrancy of parliamentary democracy, however, without any communication between the various organs of a democracy, including parliamentarians, government and media, all this is rendered meaningless. The Parliament isn’t a building of brick and mortar but is a semblance of democracy, and democracy cannot survive without independent media. By keeping the media away, the government is making the communication one-sided. It is a heavy loss for the parliamentarians and the people.”