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My worries in filing stories about Assembly Session

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 4 minutes read

The greatest challenge in my entire career as journalist has been reporting the assembly proceeding particularly during sessions of the Manipur Legislative Assembly. It is not because I am not aware on how to report or edit news, but because senior colleagues in the field had warned me about the unwanted consequences that may occurred during the course of filing stories about the proceedings.
Usage of terminology has been a major concern for journalists doing parliamentary reporting. A minor mistake on the terminology often amount to a mockery of the legislators besides degrading the credibility of the media organization. It is not just the usage of terminology but it is also about maintaining integrity of being a journalist which was often hampered due to the privilege of the house.
A senior Journalist of the state was once summoned to apology before the house for alleged mockery of the house reflected at one of his write up.
Can I file story about the irresponsible behavior of a member?
Sometime a member of the house was found sleeping when another member was moving a motion or answering to questions. Sometime a member walks out from the house when the house was discussing serious issues. Sometime a mere breach of protocol by member becomes a joke or sometime a mobile phone ringing might disturbed the proceeding of the house. Can I file this sort of stories as this are also stuffs that will caught the attention of the audiences. Any write up criticizing an event which comes under the jurisdiction of Assembly Secretariat during session or any damage done during the period could be called upon for contempt.
The question arises out here is – Are we journalist being denied the right to freedom of reporting?  Are our rights limited only to certain area?
Certainly, there are certain limitations for parliamentary reporting. But what are the limitations. The area of limitation at which a reporter need to strictly abide need to be published by the authority of the learned staffs of the state Legislative Assembly.
On June 27, 2012, I joined my journalist colleagues for coverage of the second session of the 10th Manipur legislative Assembly. On the first day except for the obituary reference of T Gougin was taken up. Moving obituary motion of a departed member is a much but then – Is the house serious about moving the obituary motion? The members of the house including the leader of the house and opposition leader as well as those attending the motion had stated different date of birth of the departed leader T Gaugin who was a deputy chief Minister during the time of YM Sheija I 1974. Surprisingly one senior Minister said Gaugin was expired on 5 June 2012, while another said he was expired in 6 June 2012. Another MLA while joining the obituary reference had even said that the date of birth of the departed member has not been recorded correctly.
Should I report this or shouldn’t I? I have reason for picking up the analytical reporting as I could prove the inefficiency of the then assembly staffs in proving information to the honorable members. But would not this amount to the breach of privilege of the house?
Now another question is the certain alleged misappropriation happening inside the Assembly secretariat. Journalists certainly want to put up the issue through their story but on assuming whether it amount to breach of privilege or not, one often roll back.
During that time contract staffs of the Assembly Secretariat has been forbidden from entering the new assembly secretariat building at Chingmeirong. Many questions arise on why the order has been other. One may also question – why should the Assembly spent so much money on paying salary for the contract employees if they have to be kept aside during the session which is one of the most important job for all the staffs.
The matter is serious. I certainly thought, this too be on the news. But I was in dilemma for quit some times as I was not clear on whether it would amount to breach of privilege of the house or not.
But then taking own risk I filed a story on that issue at ISTV News programme (That Time I was working as a Editor of the ISTV News). The following is how I file the story to the news channel.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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