A short legislature session began today in Karnataka's Vidhana Soudha. And it involves a big change for the media. Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri has said that cameras from private channels will not be allowed to enter the Assembly to directly cover or transmit the proceedings live. Reporters can still enter to observe the proceedings but bags and mobile phones, which were permitted earlier, now need to be left outside the Assembly hall.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa tweeted in response to this in the morning - but later the tweet was deleted. The tweet said, "My government is always committed to freedom of media. I will make sincere effort and request speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri to reconsider his decision on barring media from telecasting the house proceedings."
The official channel, Doordarshan, will continue to cover the proceedings live - and cameras from Doordarshan were the only ones present inside the Assembly in the gallery that used to be full of cameras from private channels.
The move has been criticised by the opposition. VS Ugrappa of the Congress told NDTV, "At the instance of government only, honourable Speaker has taken this decision. That is my information. It is nothing but a violation of the fundamental rights of a citizen. Freedom of press has been curbed by this government. Mr Yediyurappa made a statement when Kumaraswamy was in office. 'If government is going to impose such ban on media, I am going to fight against it.' Now what is he doing as Chief Minister? He has to direct the Speaker to withdraw that order."
Priyank Kharge, a former minister with the Congress told NDTV, "It is quite surprising that a state like Karnataka has done this. Maybe the government is trying to hide its failures of not tackling drought, floods. Operation Lotus that happened, the lack of responsiveness from the Centre. Maybe they want to control the media and showcase to the media that everything is fine."
Some years ago, three BJP ministers had been recorded by a private channel apparently watching pornography inside the Assembly as the proceedings were on. One of those three men, Laxman Savadi, is now deputy chief minister of the state.