Journalists boycotted a press conference called by West Bengal finance and industry minister, Amit Mitra, in a move to protest against the Mamata Banerjee goverment's decision to restrict the movement of reporters, and threat to arrest them if they violated the order.
On Friday, a police officer announced at the press corner -- a designated area for journalists to wait at the state secretariat -- that they should not venture out of the room on the first floor, else they will be arrested.
The state secretariat is a 14-storey building that houses important department such as home, finance, minority affairs, public works department, personnel and administration, office of the chief minister, chief secretary, home secretary and the DGP apart from a number of important ministers.
On Monday, when Mitra came to the press corner to address the media, a few journalists raised the issue of restriction on movement that the minister refused to entertain. Along with Mitra, Sanjiv Goenka, the chairman of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka group and the managing director of West Bengal Industrial Corporation, Krishna Gupta, was also present.
The journalists then told the minister that they would not cover his press conference.
When Mitra began speaking, almost all the journalists walked out of the room. He was supposed to make a power point presentation on the Biswa Banga Sammelan.
What was a rather vague threat on Friday, turned into a proper communication from the government on Saturday with a senior police officer spelling out the sections of IPC under which journalists venturing beyond the press corner on first floor would face action.
“First, proceedings can be initiated against the scribe concerned under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. Then we will also see whether his actions have violated any clause under the Official Secrets Act. In fact the circular in this regard was issued by the government in January this year only,” said deputy commissioner (reserve force) of Kolkata Police, Asesh Biswas.
Home secretary Basudeb Banerjee refused to make any comment on the matter.
Opposition leaders have slammed the government for trying to gag the reporters after being cornered on several issues including Saradha scam and the Burdwan blasts.