Gag on media freedom: Journalists condemn finance ministry restricting entry of journalists into North Block

After the finance ministry put in place restrictions on media from entering the North Block, a tug of war has ensued between Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and reporters.

According to the new rules, the finance ministry issued a notice which read, “Entry of media persons, including those holding a PIB accredited card will be on the basis of prior appointment.”

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took to Twitter to state that she was trying to streamline the system and clarified that there wasn’t any blanket ban on journalist’s entry. To this, journalists claimed that such a ban would limit the accessibility of information and confine them to the porch of the finance ministry.

The Editors Guild of India, which represents the country’s newspapers, expressed solidarity with the journalists and urged the government to withdraw curbs that have reduced journalists’ access to officials in the finance ministry.

It also went on to criticise restrictions imposed by the newly appointed Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the entry of journalists to the finance ministry building in New Delhi.

“This order is a gag on media freedom and can even result in a further fall in India’s global press freedom rankings, as the contagion can easily spread to other ministries as well,” the Editors Guild said in a statement.

This development comes after senior journalists met finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman as reportees were denied entry into the finance ministry even after the Union Budget 2019 was presented by Sitharaman in the Parliament.

Ahead of the presentation of the Budget, journalists were not allowed inside the ministry to maintain the secrecy of the Budget. This period is called the quarantine period. However, the day the Budget is presented in the Parliament by the finance minister, the rule comes to an end.

Beat reporters were taken aback after they were denied entry in the ministry even after the quarantine period was supposed to get over.

Entry was denied even to PIB (Press Information Bureau) cardholders. PIB cards allow access to journalists to all ministries and government buildings barring offices of PMO, defence and intelligence and investigative agencies.

[“source=indiatoday”]