Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Media is victim of paperless zeal of Lok Sabha

22 Nov 2011


By R Rajagopalan/Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: Journalists covering the Lok Sabha had to bear the brunt of its zeal for going electronic with a new paperless regime on Tuesday when they arrived for the coverage of the month-long winter session of Parliament.

They were totally crippled by the sudden denial of Parliamentary papers like the list of business and question papers they always used to get as they enter the Press Gallery to keep track of the proceedings and that too without notice.

A group of aggrieved journalists barged into the office of the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha during an adjournment of the House to convey their professional handicap in providing objective coverage of the House without the papers. They told him how they would be left to guessing the proceedings that take place during the noise and din without the agenda to check what is going on and that may result in misreporting.

Even the public relations department of the Lok Sabha was surprised by the paperless regime thrust on the media, without making any alternate arrangements for access of the information required when in the Press Gallery covering the proceedings. It could do little than to rush an internal note to review the decision not to give any papers to the media.

The new regime is aimed at minimising the huge consumption of paper and ultimately eliminate use of paper totally by putting everything on the Internet. 

The MPs are not complaining since they have been provided free either an Apple iPad or Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab, with a connection from the Parliament hub, to check documents even while in the House and so much so that they can even watch proceedings going on in the other House without moving from their seat. Also, the staff is ready to rush the paper documents on demand from any MP.

The media, however, does not have such a facility. What to say of allowing iPad or laptop in the Press gallery, journalists are not allowed to even take inside their mobile phones, particularly the smart phone on which they can check the necessary agenda and question papers to pursue the proceedings effectively. Moreover, the mobile jammer are installed in the Press Gallery that will not allow any Internet connection even if the rules are relaxed and journalists allowed to take along their equipment for surfing.

Also, a majority of journalists covering the Lok Sabha are still not that computer savvy to work with the help of the net, besides others handicapped by slow Internet connections in their offices. There are a score of journalists working for the language dailies who still write in long hand and have no knowledge of computers. They cried that it is a sort of censure, binding them out as they have no way to get the papers without any computers.

The only silver-lining on the day of despair, though not much since the House just could not function because of pandemonium, for journalists was that they did get the answerbooks of the questions as also the statements made by two ministers, Pranab Mukherjee and Dinesh Trivedi since they are circulated by the staff of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) who do not come under the diktats of the Lok Sabha secretariat.

Not available, however, were four reports of the standing committee on home tabled in the House on Tuesday by its member Navin Jindal, including a report on The Enemy Property (Amendment & Validation) Second Bill, 2010.    


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