Withdraw ‘Gag’ on Media Freedom: Editors Guild to Finance Minister
Editors Guild has called Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s restriction an “arbitration decision.”
Editors Guild has called Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s restriction an “arbitration decision.”(Photo: PTI)

Withdraw ‘Gag’ on Media Freedom: Editors Guild to Finance Minister

The Editors Guild o India on Wednesday, 10 July, described the restrictions by Finance Ministry on the entry of media persons into North Block as a “gag” on media freedom and urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to withdraw the “arbitrary decision.”

A clarification issued by the office of the finance minister on Tuesday, 9 July said that a procedure has been put in place for “streamlining and facilitating” the entry of media persons inside the Ministry and “no ban is in place” on the entry of media persons in the ministry.

However, the Editors Guild, condemned the ministry’s “arbitrary decision” to deny even government-accredited journalists’ access to its offices in North Block, without prior appointment.

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‘A Blanket Order Isn’t The Answer’

The guild, in a statement, said that it has no dispute with the ministry that journalists should behave with restraint and responsibility while enjoying their access to the finance ministry, but a blanket order is not the answer.

"Journalists do not go to government offices to enjoy the comforts and hospitality of visitors' rooms designated for them. They go to perform their challenging job of news gathering," it asserted.

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

The Guild added, “If the finance minister believes that journalists' access to government offices is causing some inconveniences, the system could be improved in discussions with journalists.”

The Guild has also urged Nirmala Sitharaman to reconsider her decision and withdraw it.

As a precedence, North Block, the seat of the finance ministry, was only out of bounds for journalists during the pre-budget quarantine period, which was about two months.

However, even after the presentation of 2019-20 Budget on 5 July, security personnel manning the gates of the ministry were not allowing the entry of journalists, without appointment, even the Press Information Bureau-accredited ones.

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