In a startling revelation, it has emerged that the Women and Child development minister, Maneka Gandhi, had last year wanted two reporters working for Reuters India blacklisted.
According to Indian Express, Gandhi’s ministry wrote to PIB asking it to cancel the accreditation of Aditya Kalra and Andrew MacAskill, after the news agency refused to “amend or withdraw” an October 19, 2015 report headlined ‘India’s budget cuts hurt fight against malnutrition: Maneka Gandhi.’
The Reuters report had dubbed this as “a rare public criticism of PM Modi’s policies”, adding that her ministry’s budget, slashed by half to $1.6 billion, had hit her plans to strengthen the fight against malnutrition since the budget was only enough to pay salaries of 2.7 million health workers until January.
Gandhi’s ministry was quick to refute the report and called the agency’s interpretation “wrong and mischievous.”
It said that certain comments attributed to the Minister were “completely incorrect” and that the ministry would take “suitable action against Reuters.”
On 20 October, Reuters reported the ministry’s denial while maintaining that it stood by the “fairness and accuracy of its story.”
The same day, Maneka Gandhi’s Private Secretary Manoj K Arora wrote to Information and Broadcasting Secretary Sunil Arora saying he had been “directed to request you to consider withdrawal of the PIB (Press Information Bureau) accreditation” of Kalra and MacAskill.
Arora in his letter to the I&B reportedly wrote that the Reuters editor had “accepted that the minister never said any of these things but it is their own interpretation” which was carried in the story.
“Despite repeated requests, they refused to amend or withdraw the story. I am directed to state that the action of Reuters was completely unethical, mischievous and violates the norms of journalistic reporting. This has resulted in unnecessary projection of the government in a bad light. The matter has been viewed very seriously at the highest level,” Arora wrote on 20 October.
I&B ministry handed the matter to the PIB, which expressed its inability to oblige Maneka Gandhi’s request adding the rules didn’t allow them to revoke the reporters’ accreditation. It said that the Central Press Accreditation guidelines did not contain any provision for its withdrawal on grounds of “alleged misreporting or mischievous reporting.”
Instead it advised the ministry to redirect the complaint to Press Council of India.
The Women and Child Development ministry has not responded on this revelation yet.