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'An Attempt to Kill Journalism': Indian Reporters Protest Against Curbs to Cover Parliament

© Sputnik / Deexa Khanduri Journalists protest in New Delhi
Journalists protest in New Delhi - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
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On 27 November, a group of journalists also wrote an open letter to the leaders of all political parties, protesting against restrictions on the media’s access to Parliament.
Several journalists in India's capital New Delhi staged a protest on Thursday to denounce restrictions preventing the media from covering parliamentary proceedings which have stopped them from reporting on the present Winter Session.
The parliamentary session began on 29 November and will last until 23 December.
Many press associations, including the Press Club of India, Editors Guild of India, Press Association, Indian Women’s Press Corps and Working News Cameramen's Association supported the protest.
© Sputnik / Deexa Khanduri Press Club of India organised the protest in New Delhi
Press Club of India organised the protest in New Delhi - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
Press Club of India organised the protest in New Delhi
Demonstrators marched from the Delhi Press Club to Parliament House and chanted slogans against the federal government - led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - and in favour of freedom of speech and expression.
Some of them had placards with such slogans as: "What A Govts' Fiefdom Curbing Press Freedom?" and "No To Media Is No To Democracy".
According to the Indian Media Association, journalists' access to Parliament has been restricted since the outbreak of the pandemic and they are forbidden to enter the media galleries in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha), Lower House (Lok Sabha) and the Central Hall area.

Speaking to Sputnik, Umakant Lakhera, president of the Press Club Of India, said, “We are not asking for anything new. We are just asking the BJP government to restore our rights.”

“The restriction has been in place since the outbreak of COVID-19. At that time, we followed the guidelines because social distancing was mandatory and we understood it."
© Sputnik / Deexa Khanduri Journalists protest in New Delhi
Journalists protest in New Delhi - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
Journalists protest in New Delhi
"Today the government has started promoting its tourism, but not allowing media folk to attend the parliamentary briefing. What kind of message is that trying to spread?” Lakhera asked.
Many opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress and many independent parliamentarians, have often raised the issue inside Parliament.
Lok Sabha Speaker, Om Birla, said in July that all accredited journalists would be allowed to cover the proceedings. After this, some were granted permission.
But the Press Club of India says nothing has been done so far.
Sanjay Kapoor, a senior journalist and general-secretary of the Editors Guild of India, blamed the government for "trying to kill the voices of small and independent journalists".
“According to new COVID guidelines, there is space for only 32 people inside the lower House of the Parliament. That also is on a rotational system based on a lottery whereby those who get a chance to cover Parliament are not included for a second time. Normally, the number is up to 75,” he explained.
© Sputnik / Deexa Khanduri Journalists protest in New Delhi
Journalists protest in New Delhi - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
Journalists protest in New Delhi
Satish Jacob, a retired journalist who worked with BBC for 26 years, said: “We are not seeking jobs or compensation from the government. We’re just asking for our rights.”
Rajdeep Sardesai, a celebrated TV journalist and consulting editor with India Today Group, was another well-known face in the protest. "This is an attempt to end opposition voices since the government channels only show the ruling party's voice," he said during the march.
"And, as there will be fewer media employees, nobody will cover what the opposition says inside the House,” he added.
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