No ban on media: Ministry of Finance clarifies after uproar 

Restriction on govt-accredited journalists from entering the premises of Finance Ministry without prior notice is usually placed before the Budget when the Ministry is quarantined to maintain secrecy

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

NH Web Desk

The Ministry of Finance’s decision to prevent even government-accredited journalists from entering its premises in North Block without prior notice is unusual.

This constraint was usually only placed before the Budget when the entire Ministry is quarantined to maintain secrecy. In the past, on the very first working day after the presentation of the Budget, the constraint was removed. But the orders to lift the quarantine after presentation have not been received by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) that handles the entry and perimeter of the ministry.

Only the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of External Affairs, and offices of investigative and regulatory agencies, require a prior appointment so far.

“Entry of media persons, including those holding PIB accredited card, will be on the basis of prior appointment. No other restrictions have been imposed on their entry inside MoF, North Block,” was tweeted by Sitharaman’s office after the meeting on Tuesday with journalists who sought an appointment with her when the restrictions weren’t lifted after the presentation of the Budget.

“The media persons can seek appointment with the officer/s to meet them. Media persons holding a PIB card will not require a separate entry pass after the appointment is fixed. These procedures are part of overall efforts being made by the ministry to make reporting for media persons hassle free and convenient,” was further stated. An additional clarification ascertained that “no ban is in place”.

The Press Information Bureau under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting grants accreditation to full-time journalists with minimum experience of five years. A detailed security check by the Ministry of Home Affairs, including an on-site verification of the residence by police is conducted by the Ministry of Home Affairs before the accreditation is issued.

Almost all government buildings which house various ministries along with those under the Ministry of Home Affairs Security Zone allow accredited journalists free access.

The Central News Media Accreditation Guidelines, states that it is for “purpose of access to sources of information in the Government and also to news materials, written or pictorial, released by the PIB and/or other agencies of the Government of India.”

It seems that the step is aiming to prevent the needless loitering done by journalists as claimed by some statesmen. While journalists complain of slow and steady decline in access to information over the years.

The order barring entry is issued by the Budget division in the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. Before the presentation of the interim Budget on February 1, entry had been restricted but it was lifted as soon as February 2, following the presentation.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has received a notice from sixteen Opposition parties for a short duration discussion on the issue of the freedom of the media. With NCP chief Sharad Pawar as the first signatory, the notice is yet to be admitted. The Opposition parties are pressing for it to be taken up as early as next week.

The parties that have signed the notice include the Congress, TMC, RJD, SP, BSP, AAP, CPI, PDP, CPI(M), DMK, Kerala Congress (M), and IUML. BJP member Subramaniam Swamy has also signed the notice.

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Published: 10 Jul 2019, 3:44 PM