The Karnataka Assembly speaker, Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri, has restricted camera persons—from both electronic and print media—from covering the proceedings of the winter session. Instead, it has been decided that—just as it is done in Parliament—Doordarshan will provide live feed to the private TV channels and pictures to the print media outlets. According to a statement from the Karnataka legislative Assembly Secretary, M.K. Vishalakshi, “The decision to provide live feed through satellite connection has been tasked to Doordarshan Bengaluru Kendra on a trial basis. Only reporters will be allowed into press galleries,” reported The Hindu.
As various media reports have pointed out, various attempts had been made in the past to restrict camerapersons of the private TV channels, but were unsuccessful. As The Hindu reported, former Speaker Krishna had attempted to introduce it first and similar attempts were made during the tenure of Kagodu Thimmappa and K B Koliwad.
On October 9, the Yeddyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had proposed restrictions on the media outlets. However, The Hindu quoted the chairman of the Legislative Council, Prathap Chandra Shetty, as saying, “There will be no unilateral decision on the issue. This will be discussed in the Business Advisory Committee meeting in which party leaders would take part. No decision has been made yet.”
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This doesn’t come as a surprise as the media has been controlled and suppressed by the Narendra Modi0led BJP government at the Centre. Ajith Pilai wrote for NewsClick:
Among the several institutions that took a knock between 2014-2019, the Indian media will stand out as one which suffered from self- inflicted wounds as much as it did from injuries caused to it by vested interests acting on behalf of the government or the party in power, namely the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In fact, the unstated message that went out to media managements as well as journalists when the Narendra Modi government took over from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in 2014 was this: ‘You are either with us or be prepared to suffer our displeasure’.
The Yeddyurappa government is being severely criticised by the opposition parties and the media fraternity for this move. The News Minute reported that this decision was informed by the national BJP leadership in New Delhi. The report also quoted sources close to the state government saying, “It was [BJP general secretary] BL Santosh, who instructed the speaker to follow the model that is currently in practice in Parliament. The national leadership is adamant that this ban will not be revoked.” However, both the speaker and the chief minister have been saying that this is a “trial run”.
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As H D Kumaraswamy, the former CM rightly pointed out, this is just to curb the transparency of the functioning of the Assembly. Several reports have also noted that the current BJP government does not want repeat of the 2012 incident—when Laxman Savadi, the then MLA from Athani in Belagavi, along with two others, was caught watching porn inside the Assembly. The video was captured by a cameraperson of a local media channel. Savadi is the incumbent deputy chief minister.
This move was protested against by the media fraternity in Bengaluru October 11. Scribes associated with the Karnataka Journalists Association and the Press Club took part in the protest. Protesting in front of the Gandhi statue in Anand Rao circle, protesters asserted that the BJP government is attacking democracy by restricting the movement of the media. They also said that since this is the first Assembly session of the Yeddyurappa government, it was important that the people in the state knew what was happening in the Assembly and what all their representatives did.
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