Parliament coverage: Senior journalist Anant Bagaitkar quits advisory panel
Senior journalist Anant Bagaitkar on Thursday (December 23) resigned as the secretary of the Rajya Sabha Media Advisory Committee, alleging restrictions on the access of media representatives to Parliament.
In his resignation letter, addressed to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, Bagaitkar said journalists have been barred from covering Parliament proceedings since early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, but the ban has not been lifted yet even though restrictions have been withdrawn for other activities.
“When the restrictions all over have been either withdrawn or largely relaxed, the media is still facing restrictions in covering Parliament which is the supreme – highest representative body of the people of India,” Bagaitkar wrote.
Bagaitkar, Chief of Bureau of Marathi daily Sakaal, said that after the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, the journalists expected normal pre-COVID access to Parliament, which was a legitimate and reasonable demand.
“But the demand was not accepted and we in the media now got an impression that normal access to Parliament is not possible in near future,” Bagaitkar said, adding that he did not see any meaningful purpose to serve on the Committee.
Bagaitkar’s resignation comes weeks after journalists covering Parliament proceedings, on December 2, took out a march from Press Club of India to the Parliament House in New Delhi, in protest against the restrictions imposed on the entry of media persons to both the Houses.
According to reports, journalists have been barred from accessing Press Gallery, Central Hall and the executive wing of the Parliament building. The group alleged that only a select few media representatives are being allowed to these places and to interact with MPs.
The protest was organized by the Press Club of India, Editors Guild of India, Press Association, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Delhi Union of Journalists, and Working News Cameraman Association.
Calling these restrictions “arbitrary”, the journalists demanded these to be removed with immediate effect. The other demands were to allow entry of all journalists who have permanent passes to the Parliament and Press Gallery and restore the entry of veteran journalists into the Central Hall of Parliament.
Reacting to Bagaitkar’s resignation, a senior official of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat clarified that the Rajya Sabha Chairman or the Rajya Sabha Secretariat has no role on the entry of journalists in the Parliament House Complex.
“Press gallery passes are being issued to media organisations as per COVID-19 protocol,” the official said.
The Media Advisory Committee of the Rajya Sabha is constituted by the Rajya Sabha Chairman and comprises representatives of various media organisations, accredited to the press gallery of the Upper House.
The primary function of the committee is to render advice to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat regarding admission of various media organisations to the press gallery of Rajya Sabha, to enable them to cover the proceedings of the House.