Curbs on journalists deprive parliament cafeteria of its charm
ISLAMABAD: The parliament cafeteria presents a forlorn spectacle after it has been robbed of its traditional vitality for different reasons.
The underlying reason behind curbs on the movement of journalists inside the parliament building is most probably that the oversensitive lot does not relish the dissemination of information by the media, especially the electronic media.
One of the official reasons behind shutting the cafetaria on TV cameras, of course with the exception of the privileged state broadcaster, is that worthy MNAs often complain that the presence of a heavy battery of mediapersons and the recording apparatus of dozens of channels leaves no space for them in a place that is exclusively meant for them to sit and chat over a cup of tea.
However, the facts belie the claim. On Thursday, the second day of harshest ever restrictions imposed on the electronic media, hardly a couple of MNAs bothered to come to the cafeteria. This is what happens almost every day.
Regular watchers of the parliamentary scene since 1985 when the present building was put to use say official excuses are too lame and don’t stand the past practice.
For the first time, a screaming (disgusting for the media men) announcement – valid for press gallery only – has been stamped on the entry press cards issued to journalists by the National Assembly Secretariat for the 39th session. This is to tell them that they should remain confined to the Press Gallery.
With the passage of time, the level of debates in the NA has gone down and the interest of honourable MNAs in the house proceedings also considerably diminished. They have given up being part of cafeteria discussions, which used to be highly meaty.
The best time in the canteen that may never come back was when the 1985 non-party National Assembly became functional, marking the restoration of quasi-democracy after a heavy dose of martial law spanning eight years. The place also remained remarkably lively even during the time of some subsequent assemblies, supervised by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. But it became a haunted place since the present democratic dispensation was introduced. Reasons for restrictions being officially given aside, analysts feel that in the election year the government wants to exercise extra care and caution so that it is not overly negatively exposed by this “camera crowd.”
Source: The News