KCR vs media: Keep off secretariat, entry strictly by invitation, says Telangana CM

The animosity of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrasekhar Rao towards the media has now manifested in a blanket ban on journalists covering the state secretariat. The blanket ban, which is proposed to be imposed on the media personnel to prevent them from entering the precincts of the seat of power of the state, is just short of a gag order.

A Saye Sekhar February 20, 2015 21:11:53 IST
KCR vs media: Keep off secretariat, entry strictly by invitation, says Telangana CM

Hyderabad: The animosity of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrasekhar Rao towards the media has now manifested in a blanket ban on journalists covering the state secretariat. The blanket ban, which is proposed to be imposed on the media personnel to prevent them from entering the precincts of the seat of power of the state, is just short of a gag order.

The Telangana government, which plans to restrict the entry of media into the secretariat "strictly by invitation for specific coverage", is citing several examples as reason for the insulation:

1. Arvind Kejriwal imposed a ban on the entry of media staffers into the state secretariat
2. There is no entry for media personnel into the South Block and North Black of the Central Secretariat
3. The same practice was in vogue in Gujarat secretariat when Narendra Modi was the chief minister
4. The entry of media into the secretariats is restricted even in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka

KCR vs media Keep off secretariat entry strictly by invitation says Telangana CM

K Chandrashekhar Rao. AFP

There is a running feud between KCR and media houses because of two reasons: a) lack of self-regulation by media houses which tend to pass judgments according to their convenience; and b) his temperamental opposition to any voice that questions his authority.

His antagonism to media houses, which ran a campaign against the Telangana movement during its peak, is ostensible. But, interestingly, he is not touching them even with a barge pole, for obvious reasons: those media houses have fallen in line.

KCR’s proxy war against TV9 and ABN Andhra Jyothy by encouraging the Multi System Operators, albeit from behind the scenes, to block the airing of the channels in the very month of his assuming office as chief minister is all too well known.

While TV9, after a protracted battle, could secure an order from the TDSAT directing the MSOs to unblock the airing of the channel, ABN continues to grapple with the blockage.

In fact, the Telangana assembly had adopted a resolution against TV9 for airing a derisive programme against the elected representatives of Telangana Legislative Assembly and tagged ABN along with that.

While the decision on acting against the channels was left to the presiding officers of the legislature, the MSOs’ decision to block the channels was depicted as an "unbridled superciliousness" of the TRS Government. The avalanche of criticism did not deter KCR; he went ahead and demonstrated his hostility through his remarks after constantly claiming that his government had nothing to do with the blockage of the two channels, that the media that’s opposed to the culture of Telangana "should be buried 10 km deep in the earth".

While these remarks came under sharp criticism and KCR’s utterances were described as antithetical to the functioning of a democracy, the chief minister took out another ace from his pack of cards to please the biggest player in the media space in the state. He buried the hatchet with the biggest media house in Andhra Pradsh, Eenadu.

Though there was no evidence that KCR and Eenadu group were at loggerheads, his general tone and tenor always gave an impression that he wasn’t tilting in favour of Eenadu’s editorial policy. It was amid this situation that KCR called on Ramoji Rao, chairman of the Eenadu group, at the latter’s sprawling Ramoji Film City and, ever since, he began demonstrating his new-found camaraderie with Eenadu. He heaped encomiums on Ramoji Rao. It is widely believed in the political circles that it was Ramoji Rao who brokered peace between KCR and the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre.

Andhra Jyothy on Friday reported that KCR was annoyed by the protrusive mikes and intrusive TV cameras and the unabated shooting that happens as he alights from his convoy till he enters the elevator and again when he boards his vehicle to go out of the secretariat. KCR was gripped by a sense of disgust finding media persons everywhere in the secretariat.

KCR is now contemplating restricting the media entry into the secretariat “only by invitation” (whenever it is required). The government is mulling making an arrangement outside the secretariat for media to station their reporters and material, including cameras.

However, Eenadu report appeared to toe the line of KCR. According to the report that was on the frontpages, some senior bureaucrats and ministers have complained to the chief minister during his recent interaction with senior IAS officers that some journalists were hanging around their respective chambers impeding their work on policy matters.

Many immature journalists were "harassing" the bureaucrats with irrelevant questioning. More than 200 representatives from over 20 news channels, an equal number of newspapers, several websites keep loitering in the secretariat everyday and this was also posing severe security concern, an official reportedly complained to the chief minister quoting concerns raised by the Intelligence department. Enquiring the antecedents of those entering the secretariat and masquerading as media representatives has become an Herculean task, another official informed KCR.

KCR, it is learnt, has directed the Information and Public Relations officials to directly send the information pertaining to various government decisions and activities to the media personnel concerned and distribute video footage officially by leveraging technology.

In complete contrast, media enjoys an unabated freedom in the Andhra Pradesh secretariat, which shares half the secretariat complex with Telangana government.

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