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Embattled UPA to burnish image

Wednesday, 26 December 2012 - 3:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

A senior cabinet minister told DNA that a poor media show was affecting the image and perception of government amongst general public particularly the young India.

Upset at the negative incidents, right from the angry public reactions over the gang rape of 23-year old girl in Delhi to scams, the panicky central government is once again overhauling its media policy. Though, the government as well as ruling Congress leaders believe the recently concluded elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have ended in a draw with both the Congress and BJP wining each state, they believe a poor publicity of the government and its welfare schemes would affect their march in eight states, going to polls in 2013 ahead of Lok Sabha polls due in May 2014.

A senior cabinet minister told DNA that a poor media show was affecting the image and perception of government amongst general public particularly the young India. Prime minister Manmohan Singh had constituted  the group of ministers (GoM) on media last May to counter the strident opposition attack on the government in the wake of 2G spectrum allocation issue. The GoM meets almost every day to foment government responses.

But, it has been found that many cabinet ministers and secretaries have failed to publicize programmes and achievements of their ministries and departments. Some secretaries feel shy of interacting with media and even with their information officers.  Now at the initiative of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the information and broadcasting ministry has asked the cabinet ministers to meet media at least once in fortnight. So far only the home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde regularly addresses press once a month, while presenting a monthly report card of his ministry.

The ministry has also asked all the secretaries to understand the need to disseminate government initiatives and policies. In a letter to all secretaries, I&B secretary Udhay K Verma has asked them to remain in touch with the information officers, who handle government publicity and also to give them access to the minutes of crucial meetings.

It has also been suggested that these information officers at the press information bureau (PIB) be allowed to attend all important government meeting. In the present scheme of things, only the ministry of external affairs (MEA) allows its publicity chief joint secretary of the MEA spokesman to attend crucial meetings and is briefed constantly by various divisions as well as the minister.

Earlier upset at the clumsy media strategy during the visit of Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik, the PMO had sent out an advisory to all the ministries to keep the MEA in loop and abide by its advice during any talks involving the foreign governments. It has also asked the GoM headed by P Chidambaram, to organise meetings with the ministers to help them adapt the demand of media handling during the key bilateral visits.

The GoM on media including I&B minister Manish Tewari, law minister Ashwani Kumar, telecom minister Kapil Sibal and parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath is also reported to have probed on why its media management went wrong during Malik’s visit.  Sources said the GoM has now asked the external affairs ministry to provide it a list of all the visits and bilateral meetings in the next three months and arrange a briefing to the concerned minister on the media management.

The GoM has also decided to devise a mechanism for better coordination between various ministries during the bilateral and foreign visit the ministers be better briefed before they come before the cameras.

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