The media fraternity in West Bengal has taken umbrage over comments by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra at a party meeting, where she purportedly described the press as "two paisa worth".
In videos widely circulated on social media, the Krishnanagar MP can be seen gesticulating to a person to leave the venue of the meeting in Nadia district on Sunday, after he had introduced himself as a reporter.
"Who has called ''du poisar'' press (two paisa worth) 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 one of the videos.
The Press Club - Kolkata, in a statement, decried Ms Moitra's remarks and said she should withdraw her comments and apologise.
"Her statement is undoubtedly unwarranted and humiliating as in a democracy the importance of a journalist and respect for his/her profession is recognised universally.
"The fight and struggle by a journalist for his profession and his/her social responsibility is known to all. None has the right to insult a media person, we condemn the MP's comment and express hope that she will withdraw it immediately and tender her apology," it said. Ms Moitra took to Twitter to respond, asserting that her observation was accurate.
"I apologise for the mean, hurtful, accurate things I said... My meme editing skills are improving," she said.
Expressing dismay over Ms Moitra's counter, Press Club-Kolkata president Snehasis Sur said on Tuesday that journalists are hurt at the way "she made light of her initial comments".
"Everyone can comprehend what she wanted to convey in the Twitter post," Sur said.
The TMC MP could not be contacted for comments.
Several journalists and people from other professions have also slammed Ms Moitra on social media for "belittling a noble profession" and judging its worth through monetary terms.
Meanwhile, senior Bengal minister and TMC leader Subrata Mukherjee told reporters, "We have to enquire as to what she had exactly said... but we believe in keeping cordial ties with the media, irrespective of what it reports about us".
Ms Moitra's comments were also condemned by several politicians, including members of her own party.
Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee, who had recently aired his grievance about dedicated, long-time loyalists being ignored by the TMC, said, "Such derogatory comments against any individual, more regarding the media, is unacceptable.
TMC MP and actor Nusrat Jahan said the media has been tirelessly focused on humane stories and the remarks are unfortunate.
"Not only political, from damages caused by Cyclone Amphan to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on people, the media has been tirelessly focused on humane stories; we cannot run media down," Ms Jahan said.
Congress Parliamentary Party leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Chowdhury said "such comments by an MP against one of the pillars of democracy is unacceptable."