Political vendetta: Under Manmohan Singh Organiser is “ineligible” for PIB accreditation!?

published on May 8, 2012

In a clear case of political vendetta Manmohan Singh government has denied accreditation to Organiser Weekly. The reason cited to deny accreditation to Organiser is ridiculous and flimsy, for it does not apply in the case of most journals accredited with the Press Information Bureau (PIB).

It is another matter that a large number of fading rags, which cannot claim any regularity of publication or circulation, are accredited with the PIB. An RTI will reveal this fact. For over half a century Organiser was accredited with the central government. The only earlier occasion when Organiser was muzzled was during Emergency, when it was closed down and its editor arrested under MISA. There are not many other publications in the country with the kind of credentials that the Organiser Weekly enjoys. We are the oldest weekly in the country being published uninterrupted for the last 65 years (except during the 18 months of Emergency).

This is an ideological publication, often on the wrong side of the establishment. But that cannot be a consideration for denial of accreditation to any national journal in a democracy. Rather it is our rightful claim.

A PIB letter dated 30th April 2012 addressed to the editor Dr R Balashankar makes the government’s arbitrary and biased approach clear. It stated, “In this connection it is mentioned that as per criterio (sic) for issue of identity card as Editor, the newspaper concerned should be in regular publication for a minimum period of 10 years or more and the circulation should not be less than 50,000 copies per publishing day. Since Organiser weekly, English does not bear minimum circulation of 50,000 copies per publishing day, it is regretted the you (sic) are ineligible for the grant of identity card as Editor on behalf of the weekly.”

Is this the real reason? If it is, how many journals accredited with the PIB fulfill this condition? If it is strictly adhered to, more than half of the PIB accreditation has to be revoked. Since when has this rule become applicable? Is it being honestly followed while scrutinising applications for accreditation? The PIB website clearly states that for accreditation the required circulation is 10,000 and publication regularity of five years. Is it that special rules are invoked when it comes to Organiser Weekly, because it is critical of the present regime? The information through an RTI, which we propose to file, will expose possibly this and much more intriguing aspects of selective patronage and censorship which the UPA regime has perfected of late. Or is it part of the press censorship agenda a Congress MP stupidly revealed through a private member’s bill? It all looks premeditated and strange.

All the previous Organiser Editors were accredited with the PIB. In fact till recently at least three Organiser journalists were holding the PIB card. This is the second time in the last six years that Organiser is being denied accreditation. Not that we are handicapped because of this mean discrimination. It rather exposes the politicization and intolerance of the information set up of the Government of India which has become a tool of the Congress for vindictiveness.

The request made was for an accreditation for professional convenience which is the right of any journalist who has been reporting in the national capital. Organiser Editor has a long professional record. For many years, before joining Organiser he was accredited with the PIB and used to hold a permanent Parliament pass. It is this aspect that makes the PIB denial all the more glaring.

In denying accreditation to Organiser the PIB did not follow even the basic accreditation Committee rules. Rather it has violated all of them. The application from the Organiser editor was not placed before the Accreditation Committee.

The Organiser Weekly is among the top 22,000 sites visited globally according to alexa.com website rating agency, based on weekly hits received. Its e-paper is internationally renowned.

Politicisation of the PIB is a dangerous trend. Authenticity and credibility of the publication used to be the yardstick for accreditation. Circulation never was. If that is the case what will be the fate of small and medium papers. It is a new devise cleverly introduced to deny identity card to politically inconvenient publications. Even a party bulletin like Congress Sandesh is accredited but not Organiser.

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