Opposition Questions Restrictions On Journalists, Demands Entry To Odisha Assembly, Secretariat
Bhubaneswar: The Opposition Congress and BJP on Thursday asked the Odisha government to immediately withdraw restrictions on the entry of journalists into Lok Seva Bhawan or state secretariat and Odisha Assembly press gallery and lobby for news coverage.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour in Odisha Assembly, Congress legislature party leader Narasingha Mishra came down heavily on the government for denying entry of journalists to the highest administrative office of the state and also to the press gallery of the Assembly. “Media is the fourth pillar of democracy. However, they have denied entry into the state Secretariat or Lok Seva Bhawan and Assembly lobby, which is detrimental to democracy,” he said.
Speaking to mediapersons outside the House, Narasingha questioned the restrictions being imposed on journalists. “They are required to speak to the MLAs and collect information from them during the assembly sessions,” he said.
BJP chief whip Mahon Majhi seconded his views and demanded that they be allowed to enter the Assembly press gallery and Loka Seva Bhawan to cover news as soon as possible. “The COVID-19 situation has improved a lot and the Centre has also revoked the restrictions imposed during the pandemic,” he said
Majhi further said that journalists are invited to political programmes and therefore, there is no point barring them from covering government programmes and entering the administrative buildings. “What the state government is trying to cover up by doing this? he asked.
Senior Congress MLA Suresh Routray also said that the restrictions were unjustified.
Information and Public Relations Minister Raghunandan Das said this matter comes under the purview of the Home Minister. “Though the Home Minister has not made any specific statement on this issue in the House, I hope this issue will be resolved soon,” he said.
Notably, journalists have been barred from entering the Assembly press gallery and state secretariat since the beginning of the pandemic about two years ago though House sessions were held physically after the decline of the first and second waves.
They followed the proceedings from a room on the Assembly premises on live TV. This arrangement made sense when the MLAs were assigned seats in the press and visitors’ galleries. But all such restrictions have been lifted since the last two sessions.
Similarly, the regular passes of the journalists, which were cancelled earlier, have not been renewed despite the fact that all departments of the government are now functioning with 100 per cent attendance at the secretariat.
Narasingha had earlier raised this issue in the all-party meeting ahead of the budget session of the Assembly, which ended on Thursday, but the government did not accept the proposal citing the suggestions made by the Health Department due to the COVID-19 situation.