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Kapil Sibal urges Sitharaman to lift ‘restrictions’ on media

New Delhi | Raising the issue of “restrictions” on journalists entering the Finance Ministry premises in North Block, former Union minister Kapil Sibal said in Rajya Sabha on Thursday that the government should not take such decisions as it has been advocating transparency.

While participating in the discussion on the Budget, the Congress leader said that journalists have the right to enter the Finance Ministry, raise questions and enquire about the data.

“I would like to place a worrisome issue before the Finance Minister. Some journalists have said that their entry has been restricted in the Finance Ministry. They have security clearances from the MHA and have accreditation from the PIB,” he said. Sibal added: “You have always been saying that you want a transparent government.

“Therefore I will request you that please do not take such decisions. Journalists have the right to go to the Finance Ministry and… they should have the permission to enquire about the data. I won’t say anything more than this.”

He also congratulated Nirmala Sitharaman, who was not in the House, for being the first full-time woman Finance Minister to have presented the budget. “It is a matter of pride for her. It is a matter of pride for all of us,” Sibal said.

On Wednesday, the Editors Guild described the Finance Ministry restrictions on the entry of media persons into North Block as a “gag” on media freedom and urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to withdraw the “arbitrary decision”.

A clarification issued by the office of the finance minister Tuesday has said a procedure has been put in place for “streamlining and facilitating” the entry of media persons inside the ministry of finance and “no ban is in place” on the entry of media persons in the ministry.

The Editors Guild, however, had condemned the ministry’s “arbitrary decision” to deny even government-accredited journalists access to its offices in North Block, without prior appointment.

The guild, in a statement, has said it has no dispute with the ministry that journalists should behave with restraint and responsibility while enjoying their access to the Finance Ministry, but a blanket order is not the answer.

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