The ongoing investigation in the recently surfaced corporate espionage matter in the economic Ministries of the Union Government as also in the now infamous Neera Radio tapes cases has revealed the questionable involvement of journalists of all hews in the nasty games of business and statecraft. This obviously puts journalists in the public spotlight. Their professional clout, personal connections with persons in powerful political, bureaucratic and corporate sector positions make them very resourceful, tempting the interested groups in trade, commerce, industry, government security set ups to tap them for intelligence gathering, lobbying for various benefits on quid pro quo basis and other favours. This also makes the media persons greedy bombs so much so that news reporting and their reviews and interpretations are coloured, in the process denying the people their inherent right to correct and fair information. Of course, there are exceptions that help maintain the nobility of journalistic profession, which outshines.
A look at the overall conduct of journalists in Parliament points to the common scenario of professional journalistic conduct in the hallowed precincts of the cradle of working Indian democracy. It also denotes how Journalist mafia has overtaken Parliament of India. Majority of media persons accredited to the Parliament for reporting the proceedings of both the Houses and those with entry passes for Central Hall for gossip based political stories are bogus with their doubtful professional credentials. Most of the journalists so accredited are fake ones representing innocuous news bodies. They are, in fact, agents of multi national corporations (MNCs) and large industrial houses, wheeling, dealing, lobbying, liasoning and pimping on their behalf through their unhindered access and proximity to the movers and shakers in the Government of the day. In all, they are anything but genuine journalists! In fact, there is no mechanism to sift the genuine from the fake.
A case in point is their negligible or nil presence in the press galleries of Houses of Parliament. They are mostly seen during the Zero Hour and partly in the Question Hour, mostly to watch excitements and thrills of the proceedings. Thereafter, the press galleries are virtually empty with only presence of agencies like UNI, PTI, VARTA and BHASHA in addition to the official media AIR and Doordarshan. In addition, the electronic news media (TVs) are there in full strength, located in a dedicated enclosure near the main gate, looking for news and sound bites from the concerned VIPs/VVIPs to suit their requirements of news and views. Added to this, even journalists, long time retired for more than a decade, say 15 to 20 years before, mostly from agencies, are being maintained on the roll of accredited journalists on their earlier addresses even though they hardly represent any media organisation! This is happening with the connivance of public relations wings of Parliament Secretariats and Presiding Officers of both the Houses.
There are about 600 media persons accredited to the Parliament, majority of whom are lobbyists. Accreditation Committee comprising media persons, mostly innocuous ones, approves their names. Added to this, Public Relations Wings of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariat have no mechanism or wherewithal to judge the genuineness of the press persons. They accept covertly sumptuous gifts, palliatives and other considerations for favour of accreditation to the Houses of Parliament, a very subtle device with attendant cautious approach with almost near impossibility to detect such misdemeanor. This is happening with impunity because there is no built-in system of filtering the professional credibility and bonafides of genuine journalists as well as their security and antecedents clearances.
Whereas press accreditation to the Government of India in the Press Information Bureau (PIB) is almost fool proof and rigorous. The system so built-in over the years is above board as can be seen from several examples of the so called powerful media men and women with doubtful credentials having been denied accreditation on the solid and absolute grounds that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs would not clear such cases and even Ministerial recommendations won’t work on the touch stone of national security considerations.
Some similar device and mechanism needs to be introduced in the system of granting accreditation to media persons in Parliament in order to weed out the innocuous journalists and agents of extraneous interests, masquerading as press persons. For such purposes, PIB, Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi Police should be associated in the process of accreditation to the Parliament in order to secure Parliament fully without impacting the autonomy of this temple of democracy!