Media continues boycott of Legislature for 2nd day

Media continues boycott of Legislature for 2nd day

28 February 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Entire print and electronic media continued boycott of Legislature proceedings for second consecutive day today protesting Speaker Mohammad Akbar Loneís remarks that media was under his control and they had to disclose sources of their story. The boycott of todayís proceedings included Chief Minister Omar Abdullahís reply to both Houses of Legislature on Motion of Thanks to the Governorís Address. After sending an invite to entire media through CMís Advisors-Devender Rana and Mubarak Gul besides Assembly Secretary Mohammad Ramzan for a meeting in his chamber at 2 pm, the Speaker retracted his message later through Director Information Farooq Renzu and called off the meeting. As the stalemate persisted, the entire media corps decided to boycott proceedings of both Houses of the Legislature till the Speaker withdraws his controversial remarks, made on floor of the House yesterday. As solidarity towards the media fraternity, the Peopleís Democratic Party (PDP) staged a walk-out in the Legislative Assembly and stayed away from proceedings of the House for the day. The media persons today briefed Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Justice (retired) HL Katju through e-mail about remarks of the Speaker that media was under his control, they have to disclose sources of their stories and that there was no PCI. The national level unions of journalists have also been informed of the remarks. At about 10 am, the media persons from both print and electronic gathered outside Central Hall of Legislature and resumed their dharna at stairs demanding immediate withdrawal of remarks by the Speaker. Political Advisor to Chief Minister Devender Rana and CPM MLA MY Tarigami tried to persuade the media personnel to shun boycott of Legislature proceedings. However, they didnít give any assurance to the media. Mr Rana and Mr Tarigami maintained that they have come in their individual capacity. PDPís journalist-turned-MLA Nizam-ud-Din Bhat came to the media persons and announced that the PDP had staged a walk-out in the Legislative Assembly after their adjournment motion was rejected by the Speaker. Accompanied by two other PDP MLAs-Abdul Gaffar Sofi, former Minister and Abdul Haq Khan, Mr Bhat said the PDP has decided to stay away from the proceedings in the Assembly today to protest the attempts being made to muzzle the voice of Fourth Estate. Mr Bhat said the PDP pressed for adjournment of the Assembly today on the ground that it had no meaning in the absence of entire media fraternity. He added that their voice was not listened and their adjournment motion was rejected after which the PDP MLAs led by Mehbooba Mufti staged a walk-out in the House and decided to stay away from proceedings today. After about half an hour of the protests, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar accompanied by NPP Legislature Party leader and former Minister Harshdev Singh came to the protesting media saying they were making an appeal to them on behalf of the House to return to the Assembly and started covering the proceedings. They said a unanimous appeal has been made by the House at the behest of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to return to the House and started coverage of proceedings. However, they failed to give any assurance that whether the Speaker was ready to withdraw his remarks in the Assembly. Later, Mr Rana, Mr Gul and Secretary Assembly Mohammad Ramzan approached the media as an official delegation saying the Speaker has decided to meet all protesting media persons in his chamber at 2 pm. Though the media persons accepted the invitation, Mr Sagar, Mr Rana and Mr Renzu accompanied by Deputy Speaker Sartaj Madni made another appearance before the media saying some ground work was required to be done before meeting of the journalists with the Speaker and, for the purpose, another meeting has been fixed in the chamber of Deputy Speaker. The journalists shot down the proposal saying they would meet the Speaker at 2 pm as decided earlier. Minutes later, Mr Renzu came to the media persons alone and announced that the Speaker was not available for any meeting as desired earlier for 2 pm. The protesting media persons assembled at the Press Club and unanimously decided to go ahead with boycott of the Legislature proceedings till the Speaker withdraws his remarks on the media. The media persons will assemble outside the Central Hall of Legislature at 10 am tomorrow to resume their protest. After staging a dharna outside the hall for half an hour, the journalists will hold a march towards Press Club of Jammu to chalk out further strategy. The media fraternity is boycotting the proceedings in support of its demand for withdrawal of controversial remarks by the Speaker made on the floor of the House virtually challenging the Constitutional right of media. 'The statement was not only violative of the Supreme Court directive but is being seen as a direct and brazen assault on freedom of pressíí, the resolution said. In the meanwhile, the media fraternity has also decided not to entertain even information Department press notes vis-√†-vis Legislature proceedings till their demand was conceded. The resolution said the media was not for uncalled for confrontation between two pillars of democracy i.e. Legislature and the Fourth Estate and had all respect for the Constitutional authority of the Chair. It added that the Speaker is the facilitator of the coverage of proceedings, which they have always appreciated and respected. However, at the same time no compromise could be made vis-√†-vis freedom of press and the fraternity would continue to fight against all attempts to gag media. Given the importance of issue, the media fraternity decided to rope in influential media organisations across the country besides approaching the Press Council of India against any attempt impinging on freedom of the Fourth Estate. The unanimous decision was to sustain campaign till its logical end. Address dharna and meeting, several journalists said there was even the Supreme Court order that media canít be compelled to disclose its sources of the story excepting where the issue of national security was involved. Meanwhile, the Press Club of Jammu has appealed to entire journalist fraternity to stand any onslaught on media. 'All media persons should vindicate their stand as per the resolution passed in the meeting held at the Press Club and take the issue to logical endíí, a statement issued by the Press Club after a meeting said. 'Being members of the Fourth Estate, the Press Club would like to impress upon the authorities and also other organisations that media persons-journalists have been burning midnight oil to do their rightful duties without favour or fearíí, a Club handout said and appealed to the civil society to come forward to express solidarity with the Fourth Estate to safeguard freedom of press and democratic rights of the State and the country. The meeting was presided over by Club president Manu Shrivatas and attended by Sohail Kazmi, general secretary and other Managing Committee members. †