Curbs on journalists in Parliament House
ISLAMABAD, Feb 6: The government on Tuesday imposed unprecedented curbs on media in the Parliament House during the National Assembly and Senate sessions, barring journalists from the parliament cafeteria and ministers’ chambers.
The move sparked protests from journalists, who termed it a ploy to deny them access to information, although the government said the action was necessitated by security concerns.
Reporters covering the parliament were shocked to find a sergeant standing at the cafeteria entrance at the start of a National Assembly session, who had been posted there to tell them about the ban on their entry to what had been the usual hangout for them and parliamentarians since the parliament building was inaugurated 20 years ago.
No such restrictions were imposed in previous parliament buildings in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The decision was taken in a meeting that was held to review security arrangements for the lower house session, which began on Tuesday afternoon.
The meeting was attended by officials of the National Assembly Secretariat, security staff and Special Branch personnel besides Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Senator Tariq Azeem Khan.
Minister of State Tariq Azeem Khan said that press reporters and TV cameras had been barred from the cafeteria after receiving ‘some complaints’ from parliament members that their ‘privacy was being compromised’.
He said that special arrangements had been made to provide all facilities to reporters in the press lounge where, he said, a special room had been provided at the fourth floor of the building to meet their professional requirements.
He denied that the step had been taken to restrict the media, but said it was getting ‘extremely difficult’ for the government to allow TV cameras inside the parliament building because of the proliferation of TV channels.
A government official, however, said an intelligence agency report had warned about the potential threat of terrorism over the next few days on parliament and Parliament Lodges, the official residence of the members of parliament, where visitors’ entry had also been banned.
Journalists condemned the move and termed it another step to curb press freedom.