The Editors Guild of India on Sunday wrote to the Press Information Bureau, demanding withdrawal of the new rules on accreditation of journalists with nodal media agency of the central government.
As per the new guidelines notified earlier this month, journalists may lose their accreditation if they act in a manner “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India”. Accreditation may also be suspended or withdrawn if a person acts contrary to “decency or morality” or due to cases involving contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Accreditation with the Press Information Bureau allows journalists access to government offices in Delhi. Accreditation is also needed in order to cover some events attended by the prime minister and the president. The cards provide access to the the media workroom and the PIB library at Delhi’s National Media Centre. Journalists who hold the PIB card are also eligible for certain health facilities and railway fare concessions.
The Editors Guild said on Sunday said that the new provisions on suspension or withdrawal of accreditation are “arbitrary and without any due process of law”. The press body said that is “bizarre” that merely being charged with a serious offence has been mentioned as a ground for cancellation of accreditation.
The guild said that the other grounds for cancellation are also vague and no adjudicating authority has been specified for such cases. The journalists’ body also expressed surprise that defamation has been listed as a ground for cancellation of accreditation.
In case of accreditation for freelance journalists, the Editors Guild said that the requirements on the number of required bylines is “unreasonably high”.
“It is clear that these vague, arbitrary, and draconian clauses have been included with an intent to restrict any critical and investigative reporting of government affairs,” the guild observed.
In a letter to Jaideep Bhatnagar, Principal Director General of the PIB, the Editors Guild urged the media agency withdraw the guidelines and undertake “meaningful consultations with stakeholders” on the matter.
The guild said that the regulations impose “unilateral, onerous and arbitrary conditions” upon journalists.
“Under the guidelines, journalists will come under the thumb of the police, and this will have a chilling impact on reporting and weaken the independence of the press media,” it said.
The earlier rules, issued in 2013, did not have the provisions that listed possible reasons for accreditation to be withdrawn. They only stated that accreditation will be withdrawn “as soon as the conditions on which it was given cease to exist”.
“Accreditation is also liable to be withdrawn/suspended if it is found to have been misused,” the earlier rules stated.
Currently, there are more than 2,400 journalists accredited with the Press Information Bureau, according to the Hindustan Times.