Government doesn't agree with India's rank in World Press Freedom Index: Anurag Thakur in Parliament

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Press Club of India and other journalists’ bodies have urged the Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur to issue a directive for renewal of the PIB accreditation cards of the journalists without any further delay.

In a joint letter to the minister, they have said that an “inordinate delay” in the annual processing of renewal of the PIB cards has caused “misgivings” among the mediapersons who are doing press coverage of the various ministries of the Union government.

“We request you to issue the necessary directive to the officials concerned and get the PIB accreditation cards renewed without further delay…without the formalities like press clippings, etc,” they said.

The letter, sent to the minister by the Press Club of India on Wednesday, has been signed by the Press Association, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Working News Cameramen’s Association and Delhi Union of Journalist.

Noting that ministry has sent “eligible” media persons an intimation extending the validity of their PIB accreditation card to January 31, 2022, the journalists’ bodies said, “This is perplexing as we are not officially informed of any specific reason for the delay or impediment in the process of PIB Card’s renewal.” 

“We are constrained to read this step of the government as an overt or covert effort to prevent media persons from being kept informed of the government’s viewpoints on news emanating from ministries”.

“It is felt that this move is heedlessly and needlessly aimed at suppressing coverage of news and views gathering, controlling freedom of press and putting undue pressure on correspondents and photographers,” they added.

Drawing the minister’s attention towards the problems that the accredited journalists may have to face due to delay in the renewal of their PIB accreditation cards, the journlaists’ bodies said a large number of scribes depend on the CGHS (central government health service) cards for health facilities but without a valid PIB card, their CGHS cards cannot be renewed.

“The same applies to Parliament cards (passes) too,” they said. If the PIB cards are not renewed timely, they said, it will also be “very difficult for the accredited journalists to go for the coverage of the assembly elections to be held soon in five states as the Election Commission (EC) issues passes for the coverage of the polls based on the PIB cards only.”

“As you yourself are considerate to the problems of journalists, we seek your immediate intervention in this matter of renewal of Press Accreditation,” the letter said, adding, “In the absence of a prompt action for renewal of the PIB accreditation, the simmering unrest among accredited media persons could take the form of protests, which all of us would like to avoid.”

Assuming that the government may have delayed the renewal process “to streamline” the system, the journalists’ bodies urged the minister to consider ordering extension of the validity of the PIB cards of the scribes including those accredited under freelance journalist category till December 31, 2022 to ensure that they continue perform their duties without “any hassle”.

“By that time, you can also have consultations with the CPAC (central press accreditation committee) and other stakeholders for a larger opinion,” they suggested.

After Independence, the facility of the PIB accreditation card is granted to media persons, after due investigation of the journalists’ credentials, for enabling their “unhindered” visits and access to the government offices and institutions, the journalists’ bodies said.

At different points of time, whenever deemed necessary, the government broadened the procedural workability of this facility, they underlined.

As and when, based on the demands of different organisations, policies were amended with a view to raising the quota of accreditation while the policy makers took the trouble to seek the suggestions of the CPAC, Press Association and other senior journalists, they said. “Regrettably, this practice is not being followed now,” they lamented.