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Fearing its own men! Deactivation of the press gallery!

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on August 31, 2022 with No Comments

An antipathetic relationship between governments and journalists is healthy for democracy, and generally it’s the media that builds the foundation for an adversarial relationship by keeping the government under a check. Ever since Narendra Modi Government took over in India in 2014, the media has been so supportive of him, that a new term had to be coined for it. “ Godi Media,” that literally means “media sitting on lap,” is a pejorative term coined for sensationalist and biased Indian print and TV news media that supports the ruling NDA government. But for few, most of the channels are now perceived as mouthpieces of the ruling party in India.

However, deactivation of the press gallery passes for journalists covering Parliament, effective from  the first day of the forthcoming winter session has left the media disappointed and hurt. But for a two print media and one TV channel; none of the others have even carried this news and reaction from them is totally unexpected. Earlier, hte Lok Sabha secretariat booklet listing out unparliamentary words and expressions came ahead of the Monsoon session, during which the use of words like ‘anarchist’, ‘shakuni’, ‘dictatorial’, ‘taanashah’, ‘taanashahi’, ‘Jaichand’, ‘vinash purush’, ‘Khalistani’ and ‘khoon se kheti’ would also be expunged if used during debates or otherwise in both the houses. The Lok Sabha secretariat has further listed words like ‘dohra charitra’, ‘nikamma’, ‘nautanki’, ‘dhindora peetna’ and ‘behri sarkar’ as unparliamentary expressions, according to the booklet.

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 without giving any reason. Whereas the media was expecting that the pre-Covid system would be restored to, the decision was least expected. Earlier the Parliament authorities had enforced  due to Covid protocols, entry to the press gallery . Now that malls, restaurants, cinema halls have reopened, there is no need for such restrictions.

A depressing trend is emerging to isolate parliament and parliamentarians from media gaze as the opposition during the monsoon session had staged protest against unemployment and price rise. These protest were covered by the media and linked interviews of opposition leaders . The same could be a reason that the government in India took a decision that augurs ill for Parliamentary democracy and goes much against the spirit of our Parliamentary democracy. The order has come disguised as blatant censorship. Media is the main link of communication between the parliament and the people. If it is denied access, the democratic structure suffers. You cannot separate the parliament from the press and say you are practicing democracy. Modi government needs to remember what Albert Camus, best known for his novels The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Fall (1956) once said, “A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.”

The not so pro journalist have been made to leave their jobs, and some even stopped from leaving the country. Prime minister himself is yet to address a press conference. When he travels abroad, the ministry of external affairs works with foreign governments to shield Mr Modi from potentially difficult questions. At home, Mr Modi is known to give scripted interviews. Meanwhile, the government has also withdrawn a proposed data privacy law from Parliament. Prime Minister Modi’s team needs to have a relook at its approach: fearing journalists while failing to ensure data privacy does not reflect well on a democracy celebrating 75 years of Independence.




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