Wednesday 19 December 2018

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Why Goa Assembly’s media guidelines sound to be a cruel Joke!

 

The media is enraged over the guidelines issued by Goa Legislative Secretariat to the media persons for accreditation to cover the Assembly sessions. It has been termed as undemocratic, discriminative as well as onslaught on the Freedom of the Press.

But a scrutiny of the five-page document of guidelines gives an impression that some bureaucrat has copy pasted some guidelines, by inserting some words or modifying, without applying mind to Goa’s situation. As a result, it has turned out to be a cruel joke!

The document also turned out to be funny because neither the Legislative Secretariat nor Speaker Dr Pramod Sawant has bothered to be democratic while finalising these guidelines by consulting its own Press Advisory Committee, consisting of journalists.

The media is furious over these guidelines because it discriminates between big and small newspapers, depending on its circulation. The limit of 15,000 circulation keeps out more than half of the newspapers of Goa, who will have to make special request to get only one, that too temporary, pass.

The second one is to consider the whole group of publishing newspapers in different languages as one single entity and issue accreditation. No passes for the reporters of each media organisation.

Thirdly, it has made 10,000 daily page views of news portion of a website compulsory to issue accreditation when no independent news portal (not E-Paper) gets such views in a small state like Goa.

The Goa Assembly has refused to recognise news weeklies, fortnightly or monthlies as news media. None of them will be able to cover the Assembly session. No passes for them. And we have quite a few such news periodicals, which Directorate of Information and Publicity has recognised.

And most importantly, the last line of the guidelines: “The Goa Legislature Secretariat shall have right to cancel/reject press ID/pass applications without assigning any reason.”

BUT WHY A JOKE?

There are also several other reasons due to which the media persons have opposed these guidelines. But the question arises whether this document should be called guidelines and consider even as a basic document to frame proper guidelines. Speaker Dr Pramod Sawant intends to do it.

The document is divided into six categories: 1) Newspapers, 2) News Agencies, 3) News Websites, 4) Correspondents, 5) Freelance Journalists & 6) Foreign Correspondents. This basic format gives an impression that it meant for the Parliament and not the State Assembly.

There is no mention of TV media except the introduction of Newspaper category mentioning Electronic Media. But rest of the points in this section caters only to the newspapers and not TV media.

The Legislative Secretariat considers everybody as a Correspondent when Goa has large number of reporters attached to the local newspapers and very few outstation correspondents attached to national media or media of other states.

It insists on appointment letter or salary certificate of each journalist when the applicant journalist is bound to submit a recommendation letter of the Editor and clearance from the Directorate of Information & Publicity.

       

No journalist will get a pass unless he/she has five years of experience in covering the Assembly. Where does the Goa Legislative Secretariat expect this journalist to start his/her first year of experience?

Three years is the minimum period of existence for newspapers/news website to get accreditation. And five years for the News Agencies. Till then, they will get only one temporary pass every six months. Is this the way Goa Assembly plans to ‘encourage’ the start ups in media?

The biggest joke is about accreditation to the Editors and Camerapersons. The newspaper category states that only correspondents, and no other category, will get accreditation. But in the category of news websites, it states: “The guidelines prescribed for the representations of print and visual media shall also be applicable in case of editors, correspondents, camerapersons of News Portals/Websites.” In reality, guidelines for editors and camerapersons don’t exist in the Newspaper section. In fact, they are denied passes.

The first line of one condition in the News Website category is that it should have paid subscribers. The second line states that right now it will not be insisted upon. In reality, neither in Goa nor at national level, a single news website is subscription-based. These experiments have repeatedly failed and wound up within a couple of months.

Another joke is insisting upon Rs 10 lakh annual revenue for a website, that too ‘from its news portion only.’ First of all, websites can get revenue only through advertisement. And no such revenue is possible even for the most populist website (not E-Paper of a newspaper) in Goa.

To give accreditation to a news website, the Legislature Secretariat wants registration of its domain name for the ‘next’ five years, not past five years. First of all, most of the domains are now registered for a long term like five or ten years. Secondly, what is the fate of news websites whose registration is ending in the next one to four years?

There is yet another condition only for the website. No accreditation if the news website is ‘involved’ in a cyber crime. How to decide ‘involvement’? Conviction by the court or a police complaint filed? Not defined.

In short, Speaker Dr Pramod Sawant will have to apply his mind on whether to consider these funny and contradictory guidelines as the basis for framing the new guidelines as per the intention he has expressed in section of the media.

Because not only the whole media and the opposition, even the coalition partners of the ruling BJP-led government have opposed these stringent guidelines.





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All elections in Goa must be held with Ballot Paper and not with EVM.

 
Jack De Goan , Goa

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