The Press Club of India (PCI) has demanded unrestricted access for media personnel to the Lok Sabha Press Gallery in the new Parliament House that was inaugurated on 28 May.
In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla ahead of the opening of the new Parliament building, the PCI said: “…we would like to draw your kind attention towards the continuous and unrelenting restrictions imposed on the entry of journalists covering parliamentary proceedings over the last several sessions”.
The PCI said senior journalists with permanent press gallery passes were being stopped from reporting on the proceedings. “We were given to understand and have also acknowledged with utmost sincerity that these restrictions on mediapersons were enforced during the Budget session of 2020, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the concurrent government restrictions,” said the letter.
After the Covid situation gradually eased, the press club said it had repeatedly raised the issue and drawn the Speaker’s attention in this regard.
“As the restriction on entry of the journalists in Parliament is supported with no tangible reason…, we strongly feel that these curbs are part of a wider agenda aimed at controlling the media and restricting freedom of the press in order to impede the free flow of independent news stories and information to the people of the largest democracy of the world. We also demand that the dysfunctional Lok Sabha Press Advisory Committee be reconstituted immediately,” said the letter by the PCI.
The PCI said, “The media is constantly being excused under the garb of Covid-19 guidelines even though no such restrictions exist in the rest of the country or in Delhi either in public places or in community gatherings, etc. The World Health Organization on May 5, 2023, also declared that Covid-19 was no longer a global health emergency”.
The letter mentioned that despite the PCI and other journalist organizations, such as the Editors Guild of India, making multiple requests, no significant steps have been taken in response.
“Furthermore, we are alarmed by the arbitrary and unjustified implementation of a pick-and-choose policy for the entry of journalists based on a lottery system… Such practices are highly unfair and undermine the principles of fairness and equal access to information. These restrictions have not only impeded the media’s ability to report on parliamentary proceedings but also severed the vital line of communication between the government, media and parliamentarians,” the letter said.
Stating that such a hindrance “weakens the accountability and transparency of the parliamentary system”, the PCI said: “…we have also been made aware that the new Parliament building lacks a central hall, which appears to be a deliberate attempt to create a barrier between parliamentarians and mediapersons. We implore you to address this matter with urgent importance and ensure that necessary action is taken to resolve the situation.”