Pradeep Pattanayak

The Odisha government is drawing flak for closing the Lok Seva Bhawan in Bhubaneswar for journalists for over one and a half years now. 

That the government, on one hand, has declared the journalists as ‘Covid warriors’ while, on the other hand, has barred them from visiting the Lok Seva Bhawan on the pretext of Covid transmission has not gone down well with the scribes. 

“It is unfortunate that journalists are not allowed entry into the Lok Seva Bhawan. If they don’t get access, if they don’t ask questions, how the accountability of the government will be fixed? Citing the excuse of Covid, how far it is justified to not allow journalists into the Lok Seva Bhawan,” asked senior journalist Ruben Banerjee. 

In this regard, senior journalist Sekhar Gupta said journalists should report the matter to the Editors Guild of India.

Journalists from electronic and print media visit the Lok Seva Bhawan to collect reaction on various incidents and issues directly from the concerned Ministers, Secretaries and other officials. Since their entry into the Bhawan has been denied for one and a half years, their way of working has severely been affected. The government has deprived them of their rights and freedom.  

At present press briefings and press conferences, which earlier used to be held at the Lok Seva Bhawan, are being carried out in virtual mode, depriving the journalists of asking questions. 
“There is no longer such restriction anywhere in India. It is still not understood why the journalists have been denied access to the Lok Seva Bhawan. Right now, the government is only sharing information with the journalists whereby the journalists are losing one of their rights to ask,” observed senior journalist Prasanna Mohanty. 

“Denial of entry into the Lok Seva Bhawan amounts to curtailing the freedom of press and denying information to around 4.5 crore people of Odisha,” maintained senior journalist Akshaya Kumar Sahu. 

Media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy. A question now has emerged how favourable it is for a democratic set up to restrict journalists from visiting the Lok Seva Bhawan?