Himachal govt withdraws ‘character certificate’ order for journalists to cover PM visit
On Wednesday, PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate and launch work on projects worth ₹3,650 crore including All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Bilaspur, before addressing a rally at Luhnu ground on the banks of the Beas
The Himachal Pradesh government on Tuesday withdrew a September 29 order that asked for a “character certificate” for journalists wanting to cover the Prime Minister’s visit to the state that generated a lot of outrage after it was publicised.
“I invite all journalists to cover PM’s visit on October 5. We’ve withdrawn official order and sought explanation from the issuing officer,” Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, PM Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate and launch work on projects worth ₹3,650 crore including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Bilaspur, before addressing a rally at Luhnu ground on the banks of the Beas. Later in the day, the PM is scheduled to participate in Kullu’s Dussehra Rath Yatra. Himachal is set to go to the polls later this year and the visit is an important one.
On September 29, the Bilaspur police issued an order to the district public relations officer (DPRO) to supply a list of all press correspondents, photographers, videographers, and teams of Doordarshan and AIR along with “a certificate of their character verification”.
“The certificate of character verification may be supplied to the office of Deputy Superintendent of Police, CID, Bilaspur by October 1, 2022 positively. Their access within the rally or meeting will be decided by this office,” the order stated.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is looking to make inroads in the hill state, was quick to react. The party’s state spokesperson and journalist-turned-politician, Pankaj Pandit, said that in his two-decade long journalistic career, he has not seen such an order. “This is an insult of the journalistic community. This has happened for the first time even as Prime Minister has visited the state several times before.”
Congress spokesperson Alka Lamba also condemned the order. “Characterless BJP Leaders are demanding character certificate of righteous journalists of Himachal. Wah Modiji Wah!” she tweeted.
Her statement drew strong reactions from the BJP.
State BJP president Suresh Kashyap condemned the “language” of Lamba’s tweet.
“Ever since arriving in Himachal she has been making inappropriate statements. Congress’ ill-will against Prime Minister is a no secret but using such language is unfortunate and condemnable,” Kashyap said.
On Tuesday, police rescinded the order and said all journalists were welcome to the state.
“It is regretted that the letter was inadvertently issued by this office. We welcome all press correspondents, photographers, videographers, team of DD and AIR and will facilitate their coverage. The passes will be issued to all those recommended by the DPRO,” said a letter, issued by the office of Bilaspur Superintendent of Police.
Director general of police, Sanjay Kundu, tweeted: “All journalists are most welcome to cover Hon’ble Prime Minister’s visit to Himachal Pradesh tomorrow 5th October, 2022. Himachal Pradesh Police will facilitate their coverage. Any inconvenience is regretted.”