New Delhi: The Information and broadcasting ministry has directed its senior officials as well as personnel in other departments to refrain from any interaction with media without proper authorisation. According to a DNA report, the two-month-old circular was issued soon after Smriti Irani’s induction into the ministry.
The I&B ministry said the decision was taken after observing that officials were talking to the media without authorisation. The ministry subsequently instructed the bureaucrats that they must seek permission of the minister or secretary of their department if media persons approach them for comment. Or the officials could direct journalists to the Press Information Bureau (PIB).
Besides emphasing that only official spokespersons are authorised to interact with media on government’s behalf, the circular also underscored departmental procedures and guidelines.
In an attempt to play down the circular, government sources labelled it as a “routine affair,” maintaining that ministry rules allowed for only the secretary or someone designated by the secretary to interact with media, DNA reported.
This is not the first time that senior ministers in the Narendra Modi cabinet – including the prime minister himself – have tried to control information flow and leaks from within the government. After ascending to power in 2014, Prime Minister Modi had asked his ministers not to talk directly to the media. In fact, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) then directed that all Union ministers to get a clearance from the PMO before clearing the appointments of their personal staff.
Additionally, following the controversy triggered by last year’s surgical strikes by the Indian army, Modi had asked his ministers to refrain from making observations or “expert comments” on the strike. The prime minister, in fact, had told his colleagues that observations on the surgical strike should be made by none other than the army.