Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra on Tuesday stoked a controversy after videos appeared in which she was seen describing a reporter as “two -paisa worth”. In a video, the Krishnanagar MP was seen asking a person to leave the venue of a party meeting after he introduced himself as a reporter. The incident occurred in Nadia district on Sunday.
“Who has called ‘du poisar’ [two-paisa worth] press here? Do remove these elements from the venue. Some of our party members invite such people to closed-door meetings to see their faces on TV. This is not done,” she was heard saying in the video.
In a statement, the Kolkata Press Club said it was deeply concerned about the comments and asked Moitra to withdraw the remarks. “In a democratic setup, the importance of journalism and the respect it commands is known to all. Journalists braving adverse situations as part of their professional struggle and social responsibility are respected globally.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Moitra defended her comments. She said the reporter had been invited to the closed-door meeting by a faction in the district unit unhappy with recent organisational changes.
Responding to the Kolkata Press Club’s criticism, the MP said, “Press Club should instead give training, not everyone with a mobile phone can be called a ‘journalist’. It was a closed-door meeting and I do not allow my workers to carry phones.”
Moitra said TMC leader Bapi Chatterjee was the party president in Gayeshpur during last year’s Lok Sabha elections. Following the elections, he was replaced by party leader Mintu Dey. However, political strategist Prashant Kishor, who is advising the ruling party, reinstated Chatterjee to the position. This angered the faction led by Dey, she added, which labelled Chatterjee an outsider since he is from the neighbouring Kalyani area.
On Sunday, Moitra, the district TMC president, convened a meeting to resolve the differences between the two sides. “As soon as I went there, they started showing placards that read ‘Outsider president manbo na [We will not accept an outsider as president]’. Mintu was trying to show his strength. In the meeting, Bapi had only invited his people and hence a lot of Mintu’s supporters and councillors were not present. I got out of the car about 50 metres away from the gate of the auditorium. A scuffle took place between Mintu and Bapi’s supporters. I went into the auditorium and I saw only Bapi’s men were present. I called up Mintu and asked him to join the meeting as both of them are our party workers. I was ready to hear their grievances. When I stepped out to talk to Mintu and his supporters, I saw these people had shut the collapsible gate and I saw a huge gathering outside. Mintu by then had called some ‘stringers’ with mobile phones to get some leverage. They started recording my conversation with my party workers. That’s when I told my party workers, ‘Why do you call the two-paisa worth press to our closed-door meetings?’ Why are you all so interested to get your pictures published in papers?”
The MP said after the meeting she spoke to “real journalists”. “What I said was between me and my party workers. I didn’t tell this to the journalists. I saw a man standing at a distance recording all this on his mobile,” she added.
Criticising the BJP, Moitra said, “They are doing it intentionally. BJP has found a great opportunity. I do not care about this ‘godi media’. Some news channels are running this piece with distorted information for their own agenda.”
The MP’s party colleague and state minister Rajib Banerjee criticised her. “She considers herself highly educated, such comments from her are unacceptable,” he added.
Journalist Snehasis Sur, who heads the Kolkata Press Club said, “Everyone can comprehend what she wanted to convey on Twitter.”
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