12/04/2016 11:39 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Maneka Gandhi Tried To Get Two Reuters Journalists Blacklisted: Report

The India Today Group via Getty Images
NEW DELHI,INDIA SEPTEMBER 17: Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development Maneka Sanjay Gandhi addressing a press conference in New Delhi.(Photo by Yasbant Negi/India Today Group/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- Union Minister Maneka Gandhi bullied two journalists who reported on her criticism of the Modi government's budget, last year, and she tried to get their government accreditation revoked.

The Indian Express today reported that Gandhi, who heads the Women and Child Development Ministry, pressurized the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to revoke the Press Information Bureau accreditation for Aditya Kalra and Andrew MacAskill, who work for Reuters India.

The Press Information Bureau denied Gandhi's request on the grounds that its guidelines did not contain any provision for accreditation to be withdrawn for “alleged misreporting or mischievous reporting."

The Reuters India case isn't the only instance of journalists getting into trouble with leaders of the Modi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Earlier this month, the BJP filed a complaint against Raghav Chopra, a journalist with CNN-IBN, who tweeted a morphed image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi touching the feet of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

In March, Delhi Police registered a case and interrogated Pushp Sharma over his report on the AYUSH Ministry " denying jobs to Muslims. The AYUSH Ministry called for an investigation into the "fake" Right to Information response on which the story was based.

The two journalists from Reuters India incurred Gandhi's wrath after they refused to backtrack on their report which said that her remarks on the budget were a "rare public criticism of PM Modi’s policies."

In October 2015, Gandhi told Reuters India that the Women and Child Development Ministry's budget was slashed by half, which made it harder to fight against malnutrition, and it only allowed for salaries of 2.7 million health workers until January.

After the interview was published, Gandhi's ministry “strongly refuted” that she had criticized Modi's polices, and described the interpretation of her remarks as “wrong and mischievous."

Reuters India ran the denial by Gandhi, but stood by the “fairness and accuracy of its story."

Still, Gandhi approached the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to revoke the PIB accreditation for the two journalists.

“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,” her private secretary Manoj K Arora wrote to the I&B Ministry.

Gandhi's response to the budget isn't the only instance of her contradicting the Modi government in public.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was making a case for developed countries to shoulder the burden of combating climate change at the U.N. conference in Paris, last year, Gandhi told journalists at home that India was a major contributor to global warming.

“It is a question of putting the blame always… the West did it. They may have done it hundred years ago. India is one of the main players destroying the climate," she said.

Gandhi is no stranger to courting controversy over remarks which don't reflect her government's position. Last year, her own ministry had to issue a denial after she proposed mandatory sex determination of a foetus as a way to fight female foeticide.

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