Mamata’s u-turn on media gag in WB libraries



Mamata’s u-turn on media gag in WB libraries Kolkata: Stoking controversy, the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal banned English and mass-circulation Bengali dailies at state-sponsored and aided libraries but in a damage-control exercise late tonight said the order was being changed to include more newspapers.

The order by the state government evoked criticism from Trinamool ally Congress, Left parties and the intelligentsia which said the decision was "undemocratic, undesirable and worse than censorship." A demand for withdrawal of the circualar was also made.

A top government source said tonight that the order by the Department of Mass Education Extension and Library Services was being amended incorporating an English daily, beside an Olchiki, Nepali and a Bengali daily to the original list of eight newspapers.

"Among the newspapers being added are leading English daily Times of India, Bengali daily 'Aajkal' besides an Olchiki and a Nepali newspaper," the source told PTI.

"A concerted move is on to tarnish the image of the state government by levelling the charge that the freedom of the press is being gagged. This is a lie," the source said.

"Rumour is being spread with a malafide intention by some motivated people," the source said.

"The Library Department is a small department, it has little funds and cannot keep so many newspapers," the source said.

The state government earlier defended its decision saying it had been issued in accordance with its policy and ruled out withdrawing the circular.

"The circular is okay ..The circular has been issued in accordance with government policy," said state's Libraries Affairs minister Abdul Karim Chowdhury after a 45-minute meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier in the day.

According to the earlier order, purchase of newspapers/dailies by public libraries shall be restricted to Sangbad Pratidin, Sakalbela, Khabar 365 din, Ekdin, Dainik Statesman (all Bengali), Sanmarg (Hindi) and Akhbar-E-Mashriq and Azad Hind (both Urdu dailies).

Three journalists of Sangbad Pratidin, Sanmarg and Akhbar-e-Mashriq were recently elected to Rajya Sabha on Trinamool Congress tickets.

The circular also said no government fund will be spent for purchase of any newspaper or daily published or purported to be published by any political party in any public library in the state.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the order is "worse than censorship" and has shades of "fascism".

PTI