Congress President Rahul Gandhi's comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's New Year interview by a "pliable journalist" evoked strong condemnation from the Editors Guild of India and journalist bodies, who expressed concern over the gradual decline in the nature of political discourse.
Concerned over Gandhi's remarks against journalist Smita Prakash who interviewed Modi, the Guild said: "Labelling of journalists has emerged as a favourite tactic on the part of the establishment. Discredit, de-legitimise and intimidate them."
"We have seen our political class use this for some time now. In the recent past, top BJP leaders as well as those of AAP have used unambiguously abusive expressions such as 'presstitute', news-traders, 'bazaari' (saleable commodities) or 'dalals' (pimps) for journalists," the guild said in a statement.
It 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".
"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," said the Guild calling for a halt to the tendency.
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.