The Delhi government has directed all its bureaucrats to seek prior approval from ministers concerned before speaking to the media. In a recently issued circular, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has also barred all bureaucrats except heads of departments (HoDs) from communicating with the media.
“It has been decided that the HoDs, with the approval of ministers concerned, can issue press releases, give interviews to the media about their respective department’s programmes and policies,” said the order issued by Sisodia.
It is understood that the directive from Sisodia was necessitated after several HoDs sought proper policy guidelines for interaction and engagement with the media. Senior officials said there have been instances in the past when Delhi government ministers were left embarrassed after a showdown between bureaucrats in their department.
“During the last several months, there have been instances of lack of clarity at the level of HoDs about the competent authority to interact with the media,” stated the letter.
However, the Arvind Kejriwal government has claimed that it was transparent in its approach towards the media and wanted to maintain a flow of information.
“The government of NCT of Delhi is committed to transparency in all spheres of functioning. It intends to provide information to the public, through media, about various programmes and policies directly from time to time,” clarified the letter.
In May this year, the Arvind Kejriwal government had issued a circular directing all government officials — including the chief minister, cabinet ministers and government officials — to report matters of criminal defamation.
Then, officials were asked to report such matters to the principal secretary (Home) who would forward the same to the director (Prosecution) for advice on whether prosecution is applicable and file a case, if needed, before a competent court.
The circular in May had come just days after Kejriwal himself challenged the constitutional validity of IPC sections 499 and 500, under which criminal defamation can entail a maximum of two years’ imprisonment. The CM had alleged that “sections of media were targeting the AAP”.