Press Council of India Chairman Justice Markandey Katju has sought a response from the West Bengal government on the order passed by it restricting the number of newspapers to be subscribed by libraries run, aided or sponsored by the State to a prescribed list.
Justice Katju has written a letter dated April 4 to the Secretary of the Information and Cultural Affairs after receiving a complaint from the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) which has described the order as “a frontal attack on the freedom of the press.” Forwarding the compliant to the State government, he has asked for a response.
The IJU letter states: “It seems that the government headed by Ms. Mamata Banerjee wants the people of West Bengal to read dailies chosen by it.”
Stating that it is “unacceptable in a democratic society” and “it impinges on their [the people's] right of choice of their reading,” it urges the Press Council of India to take suo motu cognisance of the order and take necessary action.
The State's government recently issued a circular stating that only eight newspapers that featured in a list drawn up by it can be made available to visitors to these libraries. Subsequently another five were added to the list.
The move has created a furore across all sections of civil society as well as every other political party, barring the Trinamool Congress, who expressed their severe opposition to it.