Congress president Rahul Gandhi`s comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s New Year interview by a "pliable journalist" evoked strong criticism from the Editors Guild of India. The Guild expressed concern over the gradual decline in the nature of political discourse.
Hitting out at Rahul for his remarks against news agency ANI Editor Smita Prakash who interviewed PM Modi, the Guild said, "The Editors Guild of India has noted with concern the words used by Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his criticism of ANI Editor-in-Chief Smita Prakash who interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week."
The Guild believes journalists should claim no immunity from healthy and civilised criticism. At the same time, labelling of journalists has emerged as a favourite tactic on the part of the establishment. Discredit, delegitimise and intimidate them."
"We have seen our political class use this for some time now. In the recent past, top BP leaders, as well as those of AAP, have used unambiguously abusive expressions such as “presstitute", news-traders, "bazaarti" (saleable commodities) or "dalals" (pimps) for journalists," added the Guild.
It also said that combined with ploys such as boycotts, denial of access and lately government accreditation, the abusive expressions add up to a "reprehensible strategy to throttle media freedoms".
"Combined with ploys such as boycotts, denial of access and lately government accreditation, this adds up to a reprehensible strategy to throttle media freedoms. This must be reversed. Journalists, we believe, will continue to deal with these with their usual thick skins and not let these tactics intimidate them. The Guild, as an apex, non-partisan institution, however, takes strong exception to this tendency and calls for its halt."
The Press Club of India, Indian Women`s Press Corps, and the Press Association also expressed concern over the gradual decline in the nature of political discourse.
"Terms like `presstitute` used by a former Union Minister and more recently `pliable` by the President of a political party for the media are inappropriate and lower the dignity of discourse in general," they said in a joint statement.