NATIONAL

PM sets right confusion over media briefings

NEW DELHI, MARCH 17. From day one, the Manmohan Singh Government has not been able to get its media act together in the perception of journalists. Even the simplest of communication exercise is not undertaken. For example, there is confusion over who will brief journalists on decisions taken at meetings of the Union Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. The confusion, which has been prevailing since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government assumed power in May last, came to a head on Wednesday night, leading to some tense moments outside the residence of the Prime Minister on Race Course Road.

Trouble arose after a group of reporters threatened to launch an impromptu agitation as Minister after Minister drove away unmindful of the journalists' requests for a briefing on the decisions taken at the meetings.

Irked by the "insensitivity'' of the Ministers, the reporters called up the Media Adviser, Sanjaya Baru, and the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Vikram Doraiswamy, and said that unless they got a personal hearing from the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, they would go on a `dharna' then and there.

The PMO officials first got in touch with the Cabinet Secretary and then Dr. Singh. On the directions of Dr. Singh, two of his senior colleagues, the Defence Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had stayed back for some discussion, came out and briefed the waiting journalists.

Arrangement

The two Ministers also promised that a proper arrangement for briefings would be made for future meetings of the Cabinet and CCEA.

Even now, there is a system in place — the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Jaipal Reddy, is entrusted with the task of briefing the media on the Cabinet and the Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, on CCEA. But, only on a few occasions, have they had done so. They too mostly drive past after the meetings.

Even when the two Ministers brief the media, reporters from the print media have to face a lot of problems as there is no public address system and, consequently only those reporters who manage to muscle in their way close to the Ministers get to hear what is being said.

There has been a long-standing demand from these reporters that briefings be held at the conference hall of the Press Information Bureau at Shastri Bhavan as was the practice during the previous NDA regime.

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