Just a day ahead of the Karnataka state Assembly's three-day session, the Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri imposed a ban on broadcast and photojournalists from videotaping and photographing the proceedings inside the House. The abrupt decision made by the Speaker has raised questions regarding the government's decision to clamp down on the media.
BJP sources close to state President Nalin Kumar Kateel and also Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa say that the decision to impose the ban came from the leadership in New Delhi. "It was [BJP general secretary] BL Santosh who instructed the Speaker to follow the model that is currently in practise in the Parliament. The national leadership is adamant that this ban will not be revoked," the source said.
BJP insiders say that the decision comes in the wake of several state leaders requesting the national leaders to not allow television cameras inside the Assembly. A source close to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said that the party does not want a repeat of the 2012 incident involving Laxman Savadi, the then MLA from Athani in Belagavi, who was caught watching porn inside the Assembly. The video was captured by a cameraperson of a local media channel.
"Many state leaders agreed that such instances must not repeat again. The cameras installed for recording proceedings is there and journalists can take the footage from the Assembly's output unit. This way, only footage of those leaders who speak inside the Assembly will be recorded and this can be telecast," the source added.
Several opposition leaders were also in agreement with the proposal, sources claimed. "Informally, several JD(S) leaders, especially HD Kumaraswamy had supported this. When leaders are sleeping or doing something else, that gets captured. A few Congress leaders too wanted the ban to be imposed," the source added.
On Thursday, a group of journalists from regional and national news organisations met the Karnataka Speaker. In spite of the group expressing concern about the ban on videography in the Assembly, Speaker Vishweshwar refused to review the decision made for the ongoing winter session of the Assembly. The journalists also held a protest at Bengaluru's Maurya Circle on Friday condemning the Speaker's decision.
The Speaker, however, told the journalists that the ban on videography is experimental and temporary.
On Thursday, the Chief Minister's Office tweeted from its official handle stating that Yediyurappa would request the Speaker to revoke the ban. However, a few hours later, the tweet was deleted.
Sources with the BJP say that the tweet was deleted because Yediyurappa's statement could have given the media the impression of infighting within the BJP. "His statement was against party dictates so the tweet was taken down," the source added.