Journalists boycott Assembly

Jammu: Media persons covering Jammu and Kashmir Assembly session here on Monday boycotted the proceedings today following Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone’s remarks that “media is under his control”.

The boycott came about during Zero Hour when the Speaker said, “They (media) are under my control.” The Speaker’s remarks came in the wake of objections raised by the opposition over his remarks on media. The issue was initially raised by three cabinet ministers, seeking his attention on a report published in a local English daily about the allegedly corruption in state health department.

Earlier in the morning, the Speaker sought disclosure of the source of the report. “There are ethics in journalism and the media must disclose the source,” the Speaker said and added that they (media) have no right to publish any report against anybody as they are “under my control”. However, reacting to Lone’s remarks, media persons boycotted the proceedings and staged a demonstration outside the Assembly.

The journalists covering the assembly proceedings sat on a quiet protest sit in in the legislative complex as a mark of protest against the authoritarian approach of the Speaker Lone towards the media. The media persons are demanding that Lone should “take back” his remark that the “media during the assembly session works under my control”.

His remarks came after Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali  Mohammad Sagar expressed his reservations over the “source- based stories” appearing in media.

Nizam-ud-Din Bhat of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP) countered Sagar and said that the media “works under the control of Press Council of India (PCI)”.

Countering the PDP leader, Speaker Lone said, “Media during the session works under my control”. Media persons resented this, and boycotted the legislature’s proceedings for the day. Earlier, when house met at 10am in the morning Minister for Health and Horticulture Sham Lal stood up holding a local newspaper in his hand and said that ministers in coalition government were undergoing media trial, speaker should take notice of it and media should be restrained from publishing such stories against the ministers.

Sham Lal was yet to conclude that Law and Parliamentary minister Ali Muhammad Sagar joined him saying that a newspaper (Early Times) to which PDP leader Muzaffer Hussain Baig referred a day earlier in his discussion on corruption was also publishing what the minister termed “baseless stories” and the newspaper should be issued notice and the ‘media trial’ should be stooped forthwith and direction shall go from that chair that media should disclose the sources.

Minister for PHE and Irrigation Taj Mohiuddin also joined his colleagues on the issue and demanded action against the media.

On this PDP MLA Nizamudin Bhat registered his protest while saying that fourth estate is a secret matter and one cannot compel the media to disclose the source. “It is the privilege of the media not to disclose the source; however, Speaker pointing towards rule book said, they have to disclose the source.

On this Nizamuddin said that press was accountable to the press council, if the ministers have some grievance, let them go to the press council. However, speaker while rejecting Bhat’s point categorically said, they are under my control; I will announce my verdict on this later. PDP also walked out in support of the media.