The National Assembly (NA) secretariat has taken action against the recording of parliamentary proceedings and denied permission. During these proceedings that several media houses are granted permission to send in some of their journalists to witness these proceedings and report afterwards. They are not granted permission to record anything live on camera or their mobile phone. Recording proceedings is in direct in violation of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in National Assembly 2007.

The rule is unfair, and a direct fetter on a right to free speech and inhibits the right of a citizen to see what is happening it parliament, an institution that represents them. It protects the MNA from embarrassment, and makes sure that his/her actions are kept hidden. The impact of a recording has a larger impact on public perception, and can lead to real change in a politician’s behaviour. The recent video of former Senator Nehal Hashmi going viral, and causing enough of a stir for the ruling party to take corrective action against undignified behaviour is a case in point.

This is not the first time that the NA has issued warning to the journalists. However, this time around, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq has announced a complete ban on covering all proceedings. The notice is the result of a brawl between two journalists over the live telecast of the opposition leader, Khurshid Shah, during the budget proceedings, which has played right into the hands of dissenters.

NA proceedings used to be broadcast, until the NA found too many brawls were being recorded. If politicians are brawling in the highest national institution, and the Speaker cannot maintain order, the media should be allowed to report on it with whatever tools they have. There is no reason to punish the media or the public. To suggest that an inanimate object like a camera violates the parliament’s dignity, rather than the legislators themselves who swing from being consistently absent or consistently belligerent, is laughable.

Legislators need to be reminded that television is the dominant medium though which the public receives information, and also that they are subservient to the public, not the other way around. In UK House of Commons proceedings are constantly televised as a right to the public, and in the US the testimony of former FBI chief James Comey was broadcasted live recently without any protest from the White House or Congress.