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Corralling journalists

Finance Ministry restricts media


The Finance Ministry’s move to corral journalists to a room in the North Block is part of an emerging pattern of the NDA-3 government to stem the flow of information that might embarrass it. While the latest move by one of the most important ministries might have made headlines, other ministries like defence and commerce too have quietly placed similar restrictions on members of the press. With the economy in a tailspin, the Finance Ministry is desperate to curb the flow of any information that might be a harbinger of further bad news for the current dispensation. Besides pigeons and monkeys, the corridors of North Block are notorious for being a haven for fixers, lobbyists and businessmen of various shades and persuasions. It made the labyrinths of the Finance Ministry a rich hunting ground of stories for journalists on the beat. After being panned by the Editor’s Guild for curtailing the movement of journalists, the ministry made a show of easing some of the restrictions. It will now allow only Press Information Bureau (PIB) accredited journalists into its precincts, but they won’t have the freedom to “loiter around,” which is an integral part of a newsperson’s job for gathering information, especially the kind that the government doesn’t want the people to know. Also, journalists would need to seek prior appointment to meet any official in the ministry. In addition, the ministry has disallowed the press from asking questions at press conferences, defeating the very purpose of such briefings. It appears Nirmala Sitharaman has started believing that by clipping the wings of the messenger, it will make the systemic problems disappear into thin air.

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