New Delhi: The finance ministry will now allow accredited journalists to enter North Block only if they have a prior appointment with a government official, according to an official release put out on Tuesday evening.
A clarification tweeted out by the office of finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s handle said that while “no ban is in place”, a procedure has been put in place for “streamlining and facilitating” the entry of media persons.
On Monday, journalists had protested over the government’s decision to no longer allow reporters inside the finance ministry if they didn’t have an appointment. Generally, the ministry is only out-of-bounds for journalists during the pre-Budget quarantine period.
“By tracking a journalist’s movement within the government department, which they effectively do by allowing reporters in only if they have a recorded appointment, the finance ministry probably hopes to cut down on leaks and potentially unfavourable news,” a senior journalist, who declined to be identified, told The Wire.
Shocking that @FinMinIndia out of bounds 2 journalists without appointment @nsitharaman.Never happened before;seems an attempt 2 stop news flows @narendramodi If information stops,U will b hit the most. Journalists r your only way to know what's really happening #DontGagMedia RT
— Sunil Jain (@thesuniljain) July 9, 2019
— vijaita singh (@vijaita) July 8, 2019
However, after the presentation of the Union Budget on July 5, it became clear that journalists, both accredited and otherwise, would not be allowed into the finance ministry without a prior appointment.
Security personnel manning the gates of the government department continue to now allow entry of journalists.The officers of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which guards the ministry, appear to be allowing entry of journalists only if a finance ministry official sends a written note giving name(s) of the media person to them for the purpose of entry.
Amid concerns among reporters and backlash on social media, the office of Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted a statement clarifying her ministry’s position “on media reports alleging that media persons have been banned from entering the Ministry of Finance”.
“Entry of media persons, including those holding PIB Accredited card, will be on the basis of prior appointment. No other restrictions have been imposed on their entry inside MOF. North Block. The media persons can seek an appointment with the officer/s to meet them. Media persons holding a PIB card will not require a separate entry pass after the appointment is fixed,” the clarification said.
“This is to clarify that no ban is in place. on the entry of media persons in Ministry of Finance. North Block… These procedures are part of overall efforts being made by the ministry to make reporting for media persons hassle free and convenient,” it added.
Clarification on media reports alleging that media persons have been banned from entering the Ministry of Finance, North Block. pic.twitter.com/T2muJ6NV0J
— NSitharamanOffice (@nsitharamanoffc) July 9, 2019
Senior journalists, including editors of various media organisations, sought time for a meeting with the finance minister to raise their concerns, but the meeting took place outside the finance ministry building.
During the quarantine period last month, a separate waiting area was earmarked outside the finance ministry for media persons.
The clarification further said that “the journalists in their very first meeting had requested the Finance Minister to allot them a separate waiting room to make their reporting hassle free and convenient. It was also pointed out that lack of a separate room forced them to wait in the corridors to meet the officials.
“As per the directions of the Hon’ble FM adequate arrangements have been made for media persons outside Gate no.2, North Block in the form of an air-conditioned waiting room where. at regular intervals, water, tea. coffee etc. are being provided. Facilities for comfortable seating and charging of electronic equipment have also been provided.”
(With inputs from agencies)