Congress lawmaker Manickam Tagore has written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, urging him to revisit the “restrictions” imposed on journalists covering Parliament. These restrictions were imposed in 2020 following the outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Congress lawmaker Manickam Tagore said the restrictions on media were adversely impacting the free and fair coverage of parliamentary proceedings. (File Photo)

Underlining that the restrictions are “adversely impacting the free and fair coverage of parliamentary proceedings,” Tagore said removing the restrictions, “will reinforce our commitment to a free press and ensure that our democracy remains robust and transparent.”

Although protocols that were put in place during the pandemic, such as physical distancing and a cap on allowing visitors have been dispensed with, journalists covering Parliament have restricted access to galleries in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha.

In a post on ‘X’, Tagore shared a copy of the letter to Birla dated June 27 where he has raised the issue of journalists being restricted.

“As you are aware, the press plays a crucial role in our democracy by ensuring transparency and holding the government accountable to the people. However, it has to my attention that several established journalists, many of whom have been covering Parliament for over a decade, are now facing undue restrictions in the name of Covid-19 protocols. While I understand the importance of health and safety measures during the pandemic, the continued enforcement of these restrictions is adversely impacting the free and fair coverage of parliamentary proceedings,” the letter said.

Tagore has also pointed out that preventing journalists from accessing Parliament not only hampers professional duties but also restricts the flow of accurate information to the public interest of preserving the democratic ethos of our nation.

“… It is imperative that all accredited reporters be allowed to cover the proceedings without any hindrance,” the Congress MP has said.

Restrictions in Lok Sabha also limit the number of journalists from different media outlets. In the Rajya Sabha too, media persons have to adhere to the new rules, that limit the number of reporters covering the House proceedings.

As per the notification from the Rajya Sabha secretariat, annual passes issued to the accredited media organisations will remain suspended for the 264th session and only two persons each from accredited media organisation subject to availability of quota, will be allowed to have access to the Press Gallery of Rajya Sabha on any given day of sitting.

Annual passes issued under Long and Distinguished category service that are provided to senior journalists who have spent decades in the profession are also suspended. The new rules allow, a maximum of Four Long and Distinguished (L&D) category pass holders, on first come first served basis to cover the proceedings on any given day of sitting.

According to an official aware of the details, the restrictions cannot be lifted in any one House, unless both the Speaker and the Chairman agree to review the rules.