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Taking journalists along is not PM’s job: How PM Modi rejected ‘tradition’ and refused to take media persons in official plane during his foreign trips

Before PM Modi ended the 'tradition' of flying journalists on official foreign trips in the government's Air India plane, the roster of media personnel accompanying the PM on his foreign tours was compiled mostly by the PMO with assistance from the Ministry of External Affairs.

Former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nripendra Misra, in an ANI podcast, revealed how PM Narendra Modi broke the ‘tradition’ of taking media persons along on foreign trips.

While appearing as a guest on “ANI Podcast With Smita Prakash” on Wednesday (November 29), Misra said, “The first time he (PM Modi) was visiting abroad, like all previous prime ministers, I carried the names of the press guys who will go with him so he looked at it and then didn’t comment anything. After about 2-3 hours, I asked him we are getting late didn’t you clear it. So he (PM Modi) asked if he didn’t take any press person along, what will happen.”

“I said sir it will lead to bad relations with the press. He (PM Modi) said why this press…these so-called monarchs of the press…they will send their own representatives. They don’t have to bother for funds and to take them in the plane is not necessary, then I said no sir this has been the convention etc, he said nothing doing, please note down nobody will go. No press representative will go with me. That’s all…so that was his decision. It was final,” Misra continued.

It is worth recalling that back in 2014, Prime Minister Modi’s decision to take only a few journalists, that too those belonging to state-affiliated media like Doordarshan and some news agencies, during his maiden visit to Bhutan as prime minister, was at the centre of discussion and not-so-surprising criticism from the media elites used to the VIP treatment meted out to them by the previous UPA government.

The modest media entourage taken by PM Modi on his first few foreign visits including those to Bhutan and then to Brazil for the BRICS summit made it clear that the PM was not interested in continuing the tradition of carrying some 30-odd journalists from national and regional media outlets, as well as TV channels, accompanying the PM on official foreign trips.

Before PM Modi ended the ‘tradition’ of flying journalists on official foreign trips in the government’s Air India plane, the roster of media personnel accompanying the PM on his foreign tours was compiled mostly by the PMO with assistance from the Ministry of External Affairs. The media entourage boarded the same plane as the Prime Minister. The government did not charge them for their flights, and Air India provided complimentary tickets to the accompanying journalists.

The media persons had to pay for their own accommodation at the hotels selected by the external affairs ministry. However, the previous governments, regardless of political party, ensured free food and drinks for the accompanying journalists. Moreover, these travels also offered the journalists with opportunity to get access to top officials, including bureaucrats and intelligence officials.

According to a Firstpost report, PM Modi, while talking about the policy change, told a senior journalist that the tradition of taking media contingent along on foreign trips is “flawed” as big media houses would be sending the journalists repeatedly. According to a report, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his numerous foreign visits as prime minister, took several journalists along repeatedly. Some of the journalists accompanied PM Singh over 20 times. In addition, selecting 30 journalists would obviously disappoint others not selected. He also reportedly said that the new age journalists have access to information regardless of their location, thus it is not imperative for them to accompany the prime minister for their coverage.

Notably, not just the media contingent, PM Modi also does not take along any guests along on official foreign trips. In August this year, Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswan inquired about the number of guests taken by the Prime Minister abroad along with him for foreign visits or events, country-wise detail, since 1st January 2023, and the criteria involved in their selection as well as the expenditure. In addition, the MP also asked if any journalists accompanied PM Modi on his foreign trips this year.

In response, Minister of State for Ministry of External Affairs V Muraleedharan informed that PM Modi did not take along any guests during his foreign visits and thus no question of criteria of selection and subsequent expenditure arises.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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