New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has restricted the entry of journalists into her ministry’s offices housed in the North Block.
Journalists, including those accredited by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), will now be able to enter the finance ministry’s offices only after making appointments with government officials, sources said.
A finance ministry spokesperson, however, said no formal orders have been issued on the entry restrictions for journalists.
This is for the first time that such restrictions have been imposed. Journalists accredited by the PIB were, otherwise, allowed to freely enter offices of all ministries and departments, barring those of defence and external affairs.
The two-month period before the presentation of the Union Budget every year was the only time when journalists were restricted to enter the finance ministry’s offices until now. This is because, in the run-up to the Budget, the government quarantines the finance ministry’s offices to maintain the secrecy of the Budget documents.
Sitharaman assumed charge as the country’s first full-time finance minister on 31 May, 2019. The ministry was quarantined a few days later as she prepared to present her first Budget on 5 July. However, the quarantine was not lifted Monday and entry restrictions remained.
Her second decision on media
Sitharaman succeeded senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who was considered to be friendly with the media.
This is Sitharaman’s second decision with regard to the media. The first was her Budget decision to introduce a 10 per cent customs duty on newsprint. The move will further hit the Indian newspaper industry, which till last year had been grappling with high newsprint prices in the wake of China’s decision to stop production of newsprint as part of its efforts to curb excess pollution in the country.
When asked at a press conference after the Budget about the rationale behind increasing the customs duty on newsprint, Sitharaman said it was felt that there was enough domestic production of newsprint and that it aimed to discourage import of newsprint.