Ensure smooth access to mediapersons covering House proceedings, journalists’ bodies urge LS Speaker Om Birla

'Journalists must be allowed access to Press Gallery and Central Hall as per tradition. We regret to note this tradition has been badly jolted in name of following COVID restrictions,' the letter says

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
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NH Web Desk

Office bearers of journalists’ bodies have written to Om Birla, Speaker of Lok Sabha, urging his intervention in giving smooth access to journalists covering the proceedings of the House.

They have pointed out that access is being denied to the journalists in the name of COVID restrictions.

“Since the Parliament of India is the nerve centre of political activity in the country, journalists must be allowed access to the Press Gallery and the Central Hall. This has been the tradition from the very beginning. We regret to note that this tradition has been badly jolted in the name of following COVID restrictions. The advent of the pandemic has seen unprecedented barriers on those who can access parliamentary proceedings and its work in committees. We must not let the pandemic spread. We are actually aware of our responsibility in this regard,” the letter says.

“Media coverage, it has to be appreciated, involves daily news reporting as well as contact with leading political figures for insights and analysis,” it adds.

“As matters stand, the Press Gallery capacity, even allowing for COVID restrictions, is deeply under-utilised. The Monsoon Session of

Parliament commence on 19 July, 2021. We request you to consider our demands with sympathy in time for the forthcoming session,” it says.

Here is the full text of the letter:

It is our humble submission that we the undersigned media organisations of the country, on behalf of our members, wish to bring on record the various problems faced by members of the press in covering the working of Lok Sabha. We would like to assure you that our members represent journalists from all parts of the country and all languages.

We are concerned that there appears to be a pattern of isolating Parliament and parliamentarians from media scrutiny. To this end, there appears to be a general effort to restrict access to Parliament and its precincts to only a handful of journalists.

We cannot emphasise enough that the basis of parliamentary democracy is an informed citizenry. Citizens are informed by a free and independent press. If members of the press are denied normal access to Parliament, they can hardly do their duty of informing their readers.

Since the Parliament of India is the nerve centre of political activity in the country, journalists must be allowed access to the Press Gallery and the Central Hall. This has been the tradition from the very beginning.

We regret to note that this tradition has been badly jolted in the name of following COVID restrictions. The advent of the pandemic has seen unprecedented barriers on those who can access parliamentary proceedings and its work in committees. We must not let the pandemic spread. We are actually aware of our responsibility in this regard.


It is our humble submission that the Press Advisory Committee of Lok Sabha meeting be held before the Monsoon session beginning on July 19, 2021 for disposal of pending application and it must be actively associated with the process of streamlining media access to the Press Gallery and the Central Hall in the COVID context. Eligibility criteria of individuals must remain unchanged. Media coverage, it has to be appreciated, involves daily news reporting as well as contact with leading political figures for insights and analysis.

As matters stand, the Press Gallery capacity, even allowing for COVID restrictions, is deeply under-utilised. The Monsoon Session of Parliament commence on 19 July, 2021. We request you to consider our demands with sympathy in time for the forthcoming session.

We cannot but urge you also to empathise with the employment aspect. Especially regional news organisations in various languages employ journalists on a part-time basis for the coverage of Parliament. When access for parliamentary reporting and coverage is slashed, these journalists lose their jobs. Across India, journalists have been rendered unemployed in very substantial numbers on account of the pandemic.

Media persons covering Lok Sabha also expect that copies of the various bills introduced in Parliament should be uploaded forthwith and replies of the Minister with transcript of question hours should be uploaded immediately. It will greatly help journalists for accurate reporting.

We urge the Hon’ble Speaker to take pro-active steps to restore full access for journalists. Media Passes for all categories must be restored with immediate effect and the process of renewal be started forthwith.

Umakant Lakhera

(President)

Vinay Kumar

(Secretary -General)

Sd/-

Sanjay Kapoor, General Secretary, Editors Guild of India

Jai Shankar Gupta, President, Press Association

S. K. Pande, President, Delhi Union of Journalist

Anand K. Sahay, Former President, Press Club of India

Anant Bagaitkar, Former Secretary-General, Press Club of India

Sri Krishna, Former Vice-President, Press Club of India

S. N. Sinha, President, Working News Cameramen's Association

Shahid K. Abbas, Vice-President, Press Club of India

Chander Shekhar Luthra, Joint-Secretary, Press Club of India

Sanjay Hegde, Sr. Advocate, Supreme Court of India

Arun K. Joshi, Former Treasurer, Press Club of India

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Published: 14 Jul 2021, 2:20 PM