Thiruvananthapuram: The Left Democratic Front (LDF), which is in power in Kerala, has supported a recent ruling by the Legislative Assembly Speaker restricting live telecast of House proceedings involving protests by the Opposition. However, political observers point out that the LDF’s present stand goes against the position it took earlier over the issue.
It was in 2002 that then Speaker Vakkom Purushothman – who represented the United Democratic Front (UDF) which was in power in the state – introduced the amendment to the Assembly rules which curbed the functioning of the visual media in the House. However, LDF – in the Opposition then – had vehemently opposed the amendment. The rules introduced in Kerala were no different from those in force in the Lok Sabha. According to the rules, visual media were not supposed to telecast ruckus in the House or walkouts, but the cameras had to remain focused on the Speaker during such events.
LDF and the media opposed the rule with all their might and the then opposition leader V S Achuthanandan, in a speech in the House, demanded the withdrawal of the rule and warned of severe protests.
Former Speaker M Vijayakumar of the LDF also said that no restrictions should be implemented on telecasting proceedings in the House. He said that democratic traditions would be weakened if the legislators were cut off from the people. Vijayakumar also said that the decision taken by him as Speaker to allow the media to report on Assembly proceedings had strengthened democracy.
The protests soon gained strength and Vakkom gave permission to shoot visuals of Assembly proceedings and telecast them. However, even though the amendments to the rules introducing the restrictions on telecast remained in force, they had not been implemented till now.
Ironically, the present Speaker of the LDF M B Rajesh cited the amendment of Vakkom in 2002 to ban the telecast of Opposition’s protest in the House on Tuesday.
Rajesh’s ruling on Tuesday also said that visuals from the Assembly cannot be used for profit. Incidentally, the visuals are regularly uploaded by Sabha TV – the official broadcaster – on YouTube and other social media accompanied by advertisements.