Updated: November 1, 2021 10:56:49 am
The move by the South and East Delhi municipal corporations to screen journalists who run YouTube channels during house and standing committee meetings has become a fresh flashpoint between the AAP and BJP, with the former accusing the civic bodies of stomping down on freedom of the press.
The incident has also prompted a fresh debate on regulations on YouTube channels and independent news websites.
South MCD Mayor Mukesh Suryan said they can get footage from the municipal secretary. “Our act does not allow it [shooting videos],” he said while the East has barred YouTubers from attending meetings as the Municipal Act does not permit it.
East MCD spokesperson Rakesh Gupta said YouTubers have not been allowed as the municipal act does not permit these channels.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said that Delhi Vidhan Sabha airs all its proceedings online without fail as it is standard procedure but alleged that the BJP is stonewalling journalists from recording MCD sessions to keep the public in the dark about their misdeeds. “Their latest ‘Tughlaqi Farman’ is in violation of the fundamentals of transparency, which is a must for every governing body,” he said.
A journalist working for a YouTube channel, who covers the civic body said, “These Acts are more than thirty years old when mobile phones were not invented and that is being used to impose curbs on the press.”
A senior official of East MCD said that a decision had to be taken as many of these journalists enter the well of the house while shooting, do not follow basic tenets of journalism and no one regulates them. “We are allowing all recognised media houses,” he said.
Shravni Mishra, who runs a channel called Bajate Raho, said proceedings of civic bodies should also be livestreamed: “Then there is no need for us to record. Even invitations are not sent to many YouTubers to attend the meetings. I raise issues of municipal workers on my channel mostly so I was banned, but my point is if someone is violating protocols then they could be restricted instead of this blanket ban.”
The Opposition Congress and AAP called the decision an unnecessary restriction on the freedom of the press and pointed out there is nothing to hide in meetings where policymaking for the city is done. Earlier, Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar had said there should be a regulatory body along the lines of the Press Council of India for online news portals.
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