Bhubaneswar, July 22: The Naveen Patnaik government has asked its officials not to talk to the media without taking prior permission from the government. It has issued a circular to this effect and asked all department heads to ensure the message goes down the line.
"There has been an order related to the service code of conduct that no one is allowed to talk to the media. We have just reiterated that order," a senior official of the general administration department said today.
The officer tried to clarify the government's move saying there was a "growing tendency among junior officials to seek publicity at the cost of the government's policies and programmes".
Citing this reason for issuing the order again, the official said: "It has been observed that certain officers have been publishing articles and issuing comments in the media contravening the provisions of the government. Sometimes, we have noticed that many officials are giving bytes to the televisions only to build their image."
Special secretary A.K.K. Meena told The Telegraph: "The department secretaries may speak to the media after consultation with the ministers concerned. We have public relations officers who can brief the media about the activities of the department."
A source in the state government said the government had to issue the guidelines following reports that even junior officials at the block and tehsil levels had started giving quotes and bytes to the media without being aware of the government's various development projects.
"It is requested that all government servants who are working under the affairs of the state must desist from writing articles, making or releasing statements to the print or electronic media and taking part in discussions organised by the media and similar bodies on subjects and issues that are critical of the government as per the conduct rule," the circular reads. The Naveen government asked its officials to adhere to the rules of the service code of conduct, failing which the matters will be "viewed seriously".
"We will review all cases where all such articles have been published by any officers working under the government," said an official.
The move has, not gone down well with the media itself.
"It is a well-planned move to suppress the flow of information to the media. In the Naveen Patnaik government, the leaders, even many ministers, are not aware what is happening at the government level. Only the bureaucrats can say it. Now it will be tough to know what is happening at the ground level," said an independent journalist.
He added that citing the circular, now even inspectors in charge of various police stations in the state would avoid giving information on various crimes.
Information rights activist Manas Pradhan said: "In the age of information technology, this order seems to have been issued in an attempt to hide information. This is not a healthy trend."