Journalists belonging to regional and national news organisations held a protest against Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri's decision to ban TV channels from taking photos and videos of proceedings in the Assembly.
The protest was held at the Gandhi Statue in Maurya Circle in Bengaluru on Friday morning.
It was attended by print, digital and television journalists working in the state including a number of photographers and videographers who will be directly affected by the decision. A photographer was also seen blindfolded while holding a camera.
"We cannot be fools to believe that the decision will be reversed because of the opposition against it. The question is not about whether the Chief Minister or the Speaker has taken the decision. We need to understand about where this idea that the Vidhana Soudha and the Assembly is a place where politicians can take unilateral decisions is coming from," HR Ranganath, Managing Editor of Public TV, a Kannada news channel, said at the protest.
He said that politicians are eager to ensure that the news that portrays them or their party in good light should only be published. "This eagerness is increasing every day and politicians want to present a packaged news bulletin to journalists. This must be resisted not only today but also going forward," Ranganath added.
Hariprakash Konemane, editor of Vijay Karnataka, a Kannada language daily newspaper, stated that this decision will be used as a precedent to take unilateral decisions. "In the first stage, TV cameras are banned from Assembly. This will be used as a precedent in the future. We have taken a stand against this in today's edition of Vijay Karnataka in which we have published a blank picture instead of a photograph on our story on this issue," he said.
The protest was supported by opposition leaders from the JD(S) and Congress. Former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was present during the protest while former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed his support for the protest.
The protesters referenced the incident which occurred in 2012 of television news channels capturing footage of the then Karnataka MLA and minister Laxman Savadi watching porn inside the Assembly. The incident caused an uproar following which Laxman was forced to resign from his position as minister. He is currently the Deputy Chief Minister and the Minister of Transport in the state.
The winter session of the Karnataka Assembly began on Thursday and is set to continue till Saturday. The ban on television cameras inside the Assembly is currently in place and the Speaker has stated that this is on an experimental basis.
Congress leader Sowmya Reddy raised alarm about the decision stating that Opposition leaders who spoke about the state government's handling of flood relief measures were not highlighted on Thursday.
"TV channels have been banned since today at the assembly. Today when we (opposition) spoke against government’s failure to handle flood relief, there was no focus on us but guess who? Yes, only the speaker or the CM or anyone from the ruling party. That’s why the media gag!", she said in a social media post.
Outside tv media has been banned since today at the assembly! Today when we (opposition) spoke against Govt’s failure to handle flood relief, there was no focus on us but guess who? Yes, only the speaker or the CM or anyone from the ruling party. That’s why the media gag! 2/n— Sowmya Reddy (@Sowmyareddyr) October 10, 2019
"What’s the responsibility of a healthy opposition? Isn’t that our job to speak up for the people of our state! To ensure we ensure the government is doing its job properly! If our voices inside the assembly can’t be heard outside to people then isn’t this death of democracy," she added.
What’s the responsibility of a healthy opposition ? Isn’t that our job to speak up for the people of our state! To ensure we ensure the government is doing its job properly! If our voices inside the assembly can’t be heard outside to people then isn’t this death of democracy!!!— Sowmya Reddy (@Sowmyareddyr) October 10, 2019
Opposition leaders and journalists stated that they will continue their protest until the ban on television cameras is lifted. Around 50 journalists from print, digital and television news organisations, including from both regional and national organisations, have petitioned the Speaker to review his decision. The Speaker will consider the petition after the current legislature session in the Assembly is completed.