Gag order on Odisha officials draws media ire

Odisha SecretariatBhubaneswar:  In a major decision, the Government of Odisha has asked its officials not to write articles, make or release any statement to the print, electronics, social media or any other communication application as per their Service Conduct Rules.

Special Secretary, General Administration, Government of Odisha, Ashok Meena had intimated the said order to the concerned secretaries of all the departments on July 13.

This implies that any statement by a government employee relating to the government or its policies on media platforms, including social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook or on social networking groups like WhatsApp, will attract disciplinary action against the concerned person under the Conduct Rules.

Talking to Kalinga TV, a senior bureaucrat requesting anonymity said it is not a new order; the officials have just been reminded about the existing order in this regard.  He pointed out that sometimes, government officials participate in debatea on various electronic media with half-baked facts which send a wrong message to the people in the state, often embarrassing the government.

The move has attracted huge criticism from various quarters, particularly from media persons. The Naveen Government has already been criticized for hiding important facts relating to its official data in various sectors.

For instance, some media persons stated that the state government had failed to produce relevant facts regarding the Mahanadi river issue. They also pointed out that despite having Public Relation officers (PROs) in every department, the official websites of many departments are not regularly updated.

The state has also witnessed how the top level bureaucrats used social media even when they were found guilty in the eye of the law.

Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi has said the state government has not prohibited its employees from informing the media about facts, but only designated officials can provide information to the press.

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