Grace Jajo, an independent reporter from Imphal, was barred from entering the Manipur legislative assembly on 22 February, the last day of its most recent session. Without prior notice, she was informed at the assembly that her permit to observe the session was revoked and that she would not be permitted to enter the premises. The next day, Raju Yanglem, the public relations officer of the legislative assembly issued a press release stating that the assembly security prevented the entry of Grace Jajo on the ground that she demeaned “the Privilege of the House” in a Facebook post. Privilege of the House refers to the assembly’s right to regulate its own proceedings.
On 19 February, the state’s legislative assembly secretariat issued a notice saying that the Imphal-based online news portal The Frontier Manipur had breached the privilege of the house for a piece on recent remarks by N Biren Singh, the state’s chief minister. The next day, Jajo shared the link of a report titled, “The Frontier Manipur offers explanation on breach of privilege and contempt of House Notice,” on her Facebook account, with the caption “Drama from the assembly.”
The breach of privilege motions are part of a wider crackdown by the government of Manipur on journalist in the state. On 2 March, a talk show hosted by Kishorechandra Wangkhem, a journalist presently with The Frontier Manipur, in which Jajo participated, was served the first notice under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021. The Rules were passed only a week before, and have been criticised by activists for severely curtailing press freedom and digital rights. Later that day, the notice was withdrawn after a directive from the ministry of information and broadcasting. Kimi Colney, a reporting fellow at The Caravan, spoke to Jajo about the events of 22 February and press freedom in Manipur.
Kimi Colney: Can you describe the events of 22 February?
Grace Jajo: I had been covering the budget assembly session every day and I went to cover it on the last day, 22 February. After coming inside the gate, at the frisking point, I was asked if I had brought my ID cards. I thought it was only for verification so I showed them my ID cards and my assembly entry pass. Then suddenly, the head of the security, E Thomba, came and took my entry pass away and kept it inside his pocket. I was stunned for a moment but I managed to dig it out from his pocket and asked him how dare he do that. He told me that he has an order to bar me from entering the assembly, and asked me to leave the premises.
I was shocked and I said that I was not aware of any such order. Nobody had informed me over the phone nor had anyone texted me, so I asked him to show me the order copy. He then called the chief security officer who I spoke to on the phone. She didn’t tell me why my entry was barred and asked me to call Mr Raju. I told her that Raju, being the joint secretary of the assembly secretariat, is always seated inside the assembly and unlikely to pick up any calls. But she snapped the line. I was totally shocked, so I tried calling Raju several times, and he did not pick my calls or reply to my texts.