Kolkata: A policeman Friday threatened journalists they would face "serious consequences" including arrests if they move beyond the press corner at the West Bengal government's temporary secretariat "Nabanna".
The verbal warning came in the afternoon from a policeman at the secretariat located in neighbouring Howrah.
The policeman, who claimed he was acting under instructions from Deputy Commissioner of Police (Reserve Force) Ashes Biswas, reminded the journalists of a circular that spelled out the "Standard Operating Procedure" of movement within the secretariat earlier this year and said the violation of the instructions would lead to strong action.
The circular issued Jan 15 had restricted the reporters to the press corner.
"Movement of media persons from the press corner to any other part of Nabanna without Visitors' Photo Entry Slip or approval of the competent authority for the purpose of media coverage is literally a breach of the SOP," said the circular.
It said only a reporter having a prior appointment with a minister or any officer would be allowed to move in areas beyond the press corner.
However, the circular led to a storm of protests, and the government had then backed out from enforcing it.
According to police Friday, some reporters "were habitually violating the circular, and going from one floor to another, and even barging into the rooms of officials without any prior appointment or permission".
The policeman, who gave the warning to the mediapersons, said they were liable to arrested if they breached the rules.
But as opposition parties and the civil society lashed out against the government move to "restrict" movement of journalists, the home secretary tried to control the situation by blaming the "overzealous policeman.
"He did not say the right thing by speaking about arrests. This is not the policy of the government," said Home Secretary Basudeb Bandopadhyay
Faced with media criticism, the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress government has often crossed swords with the fourth estate.
The government had earlier banned some newspapers from state-run libraries, while Chief Minister Banerjee herself time and again has asked people not to watch some television channels critical of her regime.