Congress head Gandhi incurs journalists' wrath

Congress president Rahul Gandhi called a journalist who interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi "pliable".
Congress president Rahul Gandhi called a journalist who interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi "pliable".PHOTO: REUTERS

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has earned censure from media groups after calling a journalist who interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi "pliable".

Editor of news agency ANI Smita Prakash had interviewed Mr Modi on Jan 1 on a range of issues, from the resignation of Reserve Bank of India governor Urjit Patel, to India's ties with Pakistan. She also asked about Mr Modi's political rivals, including Mr Gandhi's family.

Referring to this interview of the Prime Minister, who rarely interacts with the media, at a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Gandhi said: "He (Modi) does not have the guts to come and sit in front of you. And I am coming here, you can ask me any question," he said, calling Ms Prakash "pliable".

"She was asking questions and was even giving answers."

His remarks earned ire from a host of media organisations, with the Editors Guild of India saying the "labelling of journalists has emerged as a favourite tactic on the part of the establishment to discredit, de-legitimise and intimidate them".

The Delhi Journalist Association has asked for an apology from the Congress, while the Press Club of India, Indian Women's Press Corps and Press Association have jointly expressed "concern over the gradual decline in nature of political discourse".

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded an apology from Mr Gandhi for suggesting the interview was staged, and over his denigration of Ms Prakash.

 

"His party has a history of throttling journalism. He should apologise to the country's journalists for his petty remarks," BJP media head Anil Baluni told Indian media.

Still, intolerance towards journalists has been on the rise across the political spectrum in India. In 2015, after facing criticism from the media for certain remarks related to the evacuation of Indians from Yemen, Minister of State for External Affairs and BJP leader V K Singh called journalists "presstitutes".

The latest episode has also become a political bust-up.

The Congress tweeted a series of interviews seemingly favourable to Mr Modi with the caption "Pliable isn't offensive, it's the state of Indian journalism today".

Mr Amit Malviya, the social media head of the BJP, retaliated with its own series of interviews, seemingly favourable to Mr Gandhi, his mother Sonia Gandhi and even other opposition leaders. It released it with the comment: "Dear Rahul Gandhi, let me show you what 'pliable' means... Enjoy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 06, 2019, with the headline 'Congress head Gandhi incurs journalists' wrath'. Print Edition | Subscribe