FM’s Decision Restricting Access To Journalists A Reminder That We Have Entered Twilight Years Of Democracy – By Prem Shankar Jha
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s reasons on the ministry asking PIB-accredited journalists to make prior appointments before entering the North Block may be honourable: The accreditation system was put in place in the very first years of independence, when there was no television, and no one had even thought of online journalism. The number of newspapers in the country and, therefore, the number of special correspondents covering each ministry was relatively small and the Indian languages press was a shadow of what it is today.
Today the number of PIB-accredited correspondents is much greater than it was in the 1950s and ’60s. Journalists who cover the Ministry of Finance had therefore been asking for a waiting room in the North Block so that they are not being forced to loiter in the hallways for some time. Therefore, some form of order had to be brought into the system.
But Sitharaman’s decision that only journalists who have obtained a prior appointment with an official will be allowed to enter the Finance Ministry, and that the official they are meeting will have to escort them to his room from the reception area, is a cure far worse than the disease, for it will destroy the essential prerequisite of free, informed debate in the public of policies being contemplated by the government. It is the freedom of the journalists to protect the sources of their information, and of officials to ensure that alternative ways of achieving stated goals, that they would have liked to see adopted, get a public hearing.…
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