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Jaitley asks bureaucrats to give news along with politicians

Highlighting that media scape has undergone changes, Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday encouraged bureaucrats to disseminate news with "restraint" and without "propaganda" while suggesting that politicians should take a lead in this endeavour.

Addressing a workshop for bureaucrats on communication here, he said the camera has transformed news and media organisations have even begun setting the agenda to which the other institutions were only responding.

The advent of 24x7 news channels and then the social media has changed the media scape, said Jaitley, a senior minister who also holds Finance portfolio, told the workshop organised for better synergy between senior officials in ministries, ministers' offices and Press Information Bureau (PIB) officials to improve the communication flow of the government.

There may be a government set-up but it is the political leadership that has to lead from the front, he said.

"Everybody amongst the ministerial team may not be to the same level familiar with the art of dealing with the media. Slowly everybody has to be nudged, because we live through the media, we communicate through the media," he added.

"If there are programmes of the ministry, if there are decisions of the ministry, they (political leaders) have to be the best communicators. If some of them get into the shell, then they are wasting an opportunity with no cost. Its an opportunity which is to a great advantage," Jaitley said.

"So everybody has to be nudged, persuaded to really become the face," the I&B Minister said.

He said that while it is difficult to expect civil servants to become the "face", officers could still provide huge information that would interest large number of people.

Addressing the gathering that included Joint Secretaries from various ministries, private secretaries to ministers and PIB officials, Jaitley advised the civil servants to be more liberal in sharing information.

The senior minister, who has interacted with press for long in the various capacities including BJP spokesman, said the contemporary media is interested in reporting decisions but also the process behind them.

Senior officers are trained to express their honest opinion freely. "Therefore you must give the best input into the final decision making," he said.

Cautioning that the media could be more interested in the "alleged controversy" in the decision-making, he advised bureaucrats to be careful in expressing even the contrarian views.

He said while there are advantages of living in an open society, "an honest expression of opinion is one such area which can create issues and then embarass the civil servant itself" which is one reality which one should be conscious of.

Underlining that there is a difference between propaganda and information, he said, "Your job is not propaganda, you are not trained for propaganda. The discipline of a civil servant is not to indulge in propaganda. In my field we can do it, you can't. Therefore your real job is that government centric information has to be put out."

He said as more accurate, factual information from the government travels, its performance becomes more credible and the word spreads. "Once that happens, we don't have to really concentrate so much on the propaganda aspect. It propagates itself," Jaitley said.

Jaitley also gave guidelines to the senior officials present saying government communications should be crisp, clear and that social media and internet should be used to maximum advantage.

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