Editors Guild condemns finance ministry restricting entry of journalists into North Block, calls it 'gag on media freedom'

The Editors Guild of India on Wednesday issued a statement condemning the finance ministry's move to restrict entry of journalists into the North Block, allowing access to only those accredited journalists who have prior appointment with an official.

"The Guild has no dispute with the ministry that journalists should behave with restraint and responsibility while enjoying their access to the finance ministry. But a blanket order is not the answer," the Guild said in its statement.

"This order is a gag on media freedoms and can even result in a further fall in India's global press freedom rankings, especially as the contagion can easily spread to other ministries as well," it said.

A clarification issued by the office of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that a procedure has been put in place for "streamlining and facilitating" the entry of media persons inside the Ministry of Finance and "no ban is in place" on the entry of media persons in the ministry.

 Editors Guild condemns finance ministry restricting entry of journalists into North Block, calls it gag on media freedom

Representational image. Reuters

As precedence, North Block, the seat of the finance ministry, has only been out of bounds for journalists during the pre-budget quarantine period for about two months.

However, even after the presentation of 2019-20 Budget on 5 July, security personnel manning the gates of the Finance Ministry are not allowing the entry of journalists, without appointment, even the Press Information Bureau-accredited ones.

The officers of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which guards the ministry, are allowing entry of journalists only if a finance ministry official sends a written note giving name(s) of the mediaperson to them for the purpose of entry.

Amid concerns among reporters and backlash in 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.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Jul 10, 2019 21:07:15 IST