Covid curbs by Lok Sabha on media take curious turn

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, January 5: The Lok Sabha continues to restrict the media from accessing the press gallery to report the proceedings of the House in the name of the Covid-19 pandemic even while the Rajya Sabha fully lifted the curbs on press in the just concluded session of Parliament.

Now, the media appears to be giving it back to the Lok Sabha secretariat by not seeking renewal of their RF tags, the annual ID cards, which allow them to visit Parliament throughout the year. It has been reliably learnt that at least 50 publications have not submitted their request letters for the renewal of the RF tags. It has also been learnt that the Lok Sabha secretariat has sent at least four reminders to such publications. One senior political editor of a daily said that it’s now a meaningless exercise to apply for the RF tags since the Lok Sabha secretariat is practicing “pick and choose” policy in allowing the journalist presence in the press gallery.

The Lok Sabha, incidentally, since the outbreak of the pandemic has been allowing only a select few journalists to access the press gallery. “Only a select few, which amounts to pick and choose, are allowed to cover the proceedings of the Lok Sabha. Such journalists belong to the big brands, which are based out of New Delhi and a particular state, while for the others the system of lottery is employed by which several publications, including ones which have large circulations in states, are asked to cover the proceedings for a few days, two or three, for each session,” said a political editor of a Hindi daily.

He also stated that the Covid curbs by the Lok Sabha against the media is in contrast to the Rajya Sabha. “There is a deliberate attempt to keep all organs of democracy – Parliament, Parliamentarians, Media and the government – away from each other,” Umakant Lakhera, president of Press Club of India, told The Raisina Hills.

He said that representations were sent to the presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to restore the access of the media to cover the proceedings of the two Houses. “While M. Venkaiah Naidu, when he was the chairman of the Rajya Sabha gave a detailed reply, there has been no response yet, not even an acknowledgement of the receipt of the letter, from the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla,” added Lakhera.

Incidentally, the Lok Sabha could be the only entity where there still prevail the Covid-19 restrictions. Some of the leaders of the Opposition parties had also raised the issue of the restrictions on the media presence in Parliament.

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