New Delhi: The Press Club of India (PCI) has expressed disappointment and hurt at the deactivation of the press gallery passes of journalists covering Parliament, on the first day of the winter session Monday.
The PCI also tweeted about it, sharing an open letter it wrote to various political leaders on 27 November.
“Instead of keeping the Parliamentary system media friendly and transparent, the permanent press gallery passes of journalists who have covered Parliament for years have been deactivated. Journalists reporting to Parliament are feeling hurt and humiliated by this tinkering of the system,” it wrote on Twitter. “We appeal for the pre-Covid system for parliamentary reporting to be restored immediately.”
संसदीय व्यवस्था को मीडिया फ्रेंडली व पारदर्शी बनाए रखने के बजाय वर्षों से संसद कवर करने वाले पत्रकारों के स्थायी प्रेस गैलरी पास निष्क्रिय कर दिए गए हैं| इस व्यवस्था में छेड़छाड़ करने से संसद रिपोर्टिंग करने वाले पत्रकार आहत और अपमानित महसूस कर रहे हैं| pic.twitter.com/M4xZY3ZvEK
— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) November 29, 2021
In a tweet along with an open letter, PCI wrote that it is concerned that there is a “depressing trend emerging to isolate parliament and parliamentarians from media gaze”.
“The trend augurs ill for Parliamentary democracy and goes much against the spirit of our Parliamentary democracy,” it wrote on Twitter.
“We were earlier informed by Parliament authorities that due to Covid protocols, entry to the press gallery had been denied. Now that malls, restaurants, cinema halls have reopened, there is no need for such restrictions,” it wrote in the open letter, adding that it hopes that the “blatant censorship” does not continue.
The letter was signed by the representatives of Press Club of India, Delhi Union of Journalists, Press Association and Working News’ Cameraman Association.
PCI shares letter written by Congress leader
PCI also shared a letter written by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla on the matter, terming it “against the spirit of parliamentary democracy”.
“I am concerned that there is a dangerous trend emerging to isolate parliament and parliamentarians from media scrutiny”, Chowdhury wrote.
Media organisations have previously also protested against denial of entry at Parliament. In the midst of the Budget Session of Parliament in 2020, the media was barred from covering the proceedings, keeping in view the increasing number of Covid cases.
A year later, after PCI and Editors Guild of India requested, Om Birla assured that all accredited journalists will be allowed to cover the proceedings, after which some of them had got the permission. However, the PCI claims that not all journalists were allowed access to the press gallery and central hall.
An official from Parliament told ThePrint that journalists are not being restricted with the intention of stopping them from covering Parliament.
“As far as restricting the entry of journalists to the press gallery is concerned, both Lok Sabha secretariat and Rajya Sabha secretariat are following the same set of rules. Restrictions are also for members, how can it be different for journalists? The distancing norms have to be complied because Covid protocol is still being followed,” he said. “Rajya Sabha members are also being seated in the chambers as well as the gallery. The entry to the public gallery that accommodates the general public is also banned. These are compulsions of the times.”
A senior official from Rajya Sabha told ThePrint that the accreditation passes have not been cancelled by the Rajya Sabha secretariat, but only by the Lok Sabha.
“In normal situations, our press gallery accommodates 76 persons. But based on social distancing norms, we are accommodating 32 people and that is being done on a rotational basis,” he said.
A source from the Lok Sabha secretariat told ThePrint that a new pass system has been introduced temporarily, and no passes have been cancelled.
“Number of seats in the press gallery has decreased to facilitate compliance with Covid protocols. All media organisations have, however, been given representation but the number of passes per media organisation has decreased,” the above-quoted source said.
“The old passes have temporarily been inactivated because we cannot accommodate everyone in the press gallery due to a lesser number of seats, but they will be reactivated from 24 December and the older system will revive again,” the source added.
Passes are allotted to journalists via a rotational system based on lottery, in which those who get a chance to cover Parliament are not included for the second time, he added.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)