Journalists banned from entering schools in Odisha, Education Minister Pradhan said ‘unfair’

The Odisha government has banned the entry of journalists into schools in some areas after news channels showed how students were poor in maths, sparking a political controversy. Targeting the state government over the decision of the union education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that the press, which is the fourth pillar of democracy, cannot be stopped from entering any public institution.

The Dhenkanal District Education Officer (DEO) on Saturday directed the block education officers and school headmasters not to allow unauthorized entry of journalists into schools and classrooms and report such cases to the police. Similar instructions were also issued in Kendrapara district. Official sources said the government’s move was mirrored by some news channels on how students were in maths – Class 5 students were unable to memorize simple tables.

“It is unfair to ban the entry of media in school premises. In a democratic system, a school is a public institution. The media should not create disturbance in the learning process, but the fourth pillar of democracy cannot be denied entry to the campuses for the purpose of gathering news,” Pradhan said. BJP MP Aparajata Sarangi, known for her work as the state’s school and mass education secretary, said she was surprised by the directive.

“It is unfortunate and the order should be withdrawn immediately,” he said. Senior Congress MLA Suresh Routre said this is not the first time such restrictions have been imposed on journalists. “They have not yet got entry in the assembly in the name of COVID-19. Journalists have been denied admission to the State Secretariat and the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack for two years,” he said.

Defending the government, School and Mass Education Minister SR Dash said the press has the right to highlight mistakes, but journalists from some web portals were entering the campuses without permission and spoiling the atmosphere of the schools. Various journalist associations in the state also opposed the move and demanded its withdrawal.

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