Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress-led opposition UDF Thursday staged a walkout from the Kerala Assembly dissatisfied over the government's assurance to make necessary amendments to a controversial circular, which allegedly gags the media.
Demanding a discussion and withdrawal of the circular, the Opposition tore away copies of the order of the home department and walked out. A recent circular issued by the department had put in place a set of guidelines regarding media's interaction with the chief minister, cabinet ministers and celebrities within the Secretariat and in other public places.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala questioned the motive of the department, which issued the circular on a subject which apparently comes under the Information and Public Relations Department (I&PRD).
"This circular is a draconian one. This is against the freedom of the press. The government must hold discussions with the opposition and media associations. How can a state like Kerala regulate the media?" he said.
However, Industries Minister E P Jayarajan, who replied to the adjournment motion in the absence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, said the circular had been "misinterpreted" and there were no restrictions on the media. "The Left parties have always fought for press freedom. When media was being attacked by the Sangh Parivar forces, it was the Left parties who were in the forefront to defend the media," he said.
The minister pointed out that the Left government was not going to curtail the media freedom and would make necessary amendments in the circular. He said the matter had been brought up by the Opposition as they were facing a dearth of issues to be raised against the state government.
Congress MLA K C Joseph, who moved the motion, sought a discussion and said the circular was "unfortunate". He said the chief minister was behind the restrictions on media and it was the present government which had ended the custom of press briefing after the weekly cabinet meetings. "Why is the home secretary issuing a circular and interfering in the functioning of the I&PRD? This order must be withdrawn," Joseph said.
The LDF government, however, was not in a mood to allow the discussion without the chief minister in the House and told the opposition that it will consider the motion for discussion later. The dissatisfied opposition leaders then tore the circular and staged a walkout.