While CM Pinarayi Vijayan has said the circular will be amended, it is unclear what sections will see changes, and if they will be satisfactory to media persons.

Editors Guild of India condemns Kerala govts proposed restrictions on media
news Media Monday, December 17, 2018 - 14:38

On November 15, the Government of Kerala had issued a notice through the Home Department, imposing strict restrictions on direct interactions between media persons and the Chief Minister, state ministers and other high-level government officials. This move was immediately criticised by media organisations, which pointed out that it would curb media freedom in Kerala and restrict journalists from carrying out their duty. The Editors Guild of India, too, has condemned the proposed move by the Kerala government, in a statement shared on their social media page on Monday.

The notice disallows government departments and offices from handing out press releases directly to the media, instead reroute it through the Information and Public Relations Department only. Opposing this, the Editors Guild of India called the proposed restrictions “a regressive and direct assault on press freedom”, pointing out that it “imposes curbs in (journalists’) movement inside the government secretariat and makes senior government representatives attending public functions out of bounds for them”.

The Kerala government’s circular places further restrictions on media persons attending press conferences by the Chief Minister, with only accredited journalists being allowed to do so.

Various journalist associations, including The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) and Indian Journalists Union, condemned the move strongly and demanded the notice be revoked as it interferes with the freedom of the press.

On December 1, the Congress-led opposition coalition (UDF) also condemned the proposed move and demanded the order be withdrawn.

Following the public outrage it sparked, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, speaking in the Kerala Legislative Assembly on December 3, did claim that the circular was not issued to restrict journalists, but was in fact supposed to help journalists conduct their work properly. While he also said that the concerns that arose from various fronts would be examined and the notice would be revised, the circular has not been revoked by the government, nor is it clear what sections of the circular will be amended.

While hinting at making some changes to the circular during the Assembly sessions, Pinarayi Vijayan said that press conferences could be attended by all those with press or entry passes.

However, in the same breath, he also stated that in the era of online and television media, the practice of media persons approaching ministers all the time raised “security concerns”. He also suggested that the media should be informed about the working of government through the PR Department. This makes it particularly unclear what kinds of changes the revised circular will see, and whether the final notice will prove satisfactory to the media persons it will affect directly.

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