news Friday, February 27, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | February 27, 2015 | 12.21 pm IST

A Times of India report accusing the Prime Minister’s Office of blocking information regarding assets and liabilities statement of Cabinet ministers prompted the Prime Minister’s Office into clarifying that the lack of access was merely due to technical glitches. 

On Friday, The Times of India published a report titled “PMO blocks access to information on ministers’ assets”.

The report said: “In a blow to transparency, the PMO has decided to block public access to the wealth declarations made by ministers.” It added that now, the information could “only be accessed by authorized personnel”.

However, the report fails to seek a response from anybody in the Prime Minister’s Office, on why the information was made inaccessible to the public and who those authorized personnel might be. The report only said vaguely: “According to the website pmindia.gov.in, the information was last updated on February 11, 2015 when the user name and password protection might have been introduced.” (Emphasis added). 

The report then went on to quote RTI activists, who went on to accuse the government of being non-transparent for other reasons as well.
After this report was published – it appeared on the website at 12 am on Friday – the PMO responded to it on twitter, saying that the National Informatics Commission was transferring the website to new servers, because of which, some of the pages asked for authorization.

What is conspicuously absent in the report is a failure to obtain a response from the PMO before publishing the report.

A few days ago some Twitter users who attempted to access the information on ministers’ assets and liabilities said that it was no longer available, and directed to a page that asked for admin and password. Other perhaps more tech savvy tweeters said that it seemed the site was a Beta version and if one added “www” into the address bar instead of just http://pmindia.gov.in/en/ would direct the user to the website. The News Minute tried this, and found that the inability to access certain pages was due to technical glitches, which also applies to websites in general.

Whether or not the newspaper sought a response from the PMO, and did not get one, is unclear. But standard practice is to record in the news report that attempts were made to contact the person in question, and that no response was received. The Times of India received quite a bit of criticism from social media users when the PMO clarified.

Currently, all the links on the assets and liabilities pages seem to be working, though that was not the case even on Thursday night according to some social media users. Perhaps, the 'tech savvy' PMO should have simply put a disclaimer on the website saying, "testing under progress." 

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