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The dilemma in parliamentary reporting

Budget Session of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly began from February 14. 2020, with the Governor of Manipur Dr. Najma Heptulla addressing the house. First time in the history of Manipur Legislative Assembly, Except one opposition MLA no other opposition MLAs including the opposition leader skipped a photo session officially taken on the first day of the Assembly session. The reason for not attending the official Photo session with the governor of the State has not been announced, however, the way that all opposition MLAs abstained from the photo session rise eyebrow to too many political analysts.
The greatest challenges of amateur journalists while reporting the assembly proceeding particularly during sessions. Senior colleagues often advised being cautious while reporting Assembly session proceeding as there is possibility of unwanted consequences that may occur 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 amounts 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 the 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.
Sometimes if a member of the house was found sleeping when another member was moving motion or answering to questions. Sometimes a member walks out of the house when the house was discussing serious issues. Sometimes a mere breach of protocol by a member becomes a joke or sometimes a mobile phone ringing might disturb the proceeding of the house. These are stories that will draw the attention of the audiences. Sometimes, slang and unparliamentary words from a member of the house during the session but went unrecorded as per the ruling of the Speaker can be reported or not.   Any write up criticizing an event that comes under the jurisdiction of Assembly Secretariat during the session or any damage done during the period could be called upon for contempt.
The question arises out here is - Are we journalists being denied the right to freedom of reporting? Are our rights limited only to a certain area?
Certainly, there are certain limitations to 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.
Is any critical and analytical reporting on the speech of the Governor of Manipur be produced in the newspaper. If in case there are proved of the inefficiency of the then assembly staff 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 amounts to a breach of privilege or not, one often rollback.

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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