Solapur: Last evening, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde served a shocker when he threatened to "crush" what he called "elements in the electronic media spreading false propaganda."
He clarified this morning that he was targeting "social media, not journalism."
At a Congress function in Solapur, Maharashtra, from where he is the Lok Sabha MP, Mr Shinde said on Monday, "Certain elements in the media orchestrate 'nasty designs'. Since I'm also in charge of the intelligence wing, I know where this is coming from. We have been working silently to place checks on them, but there was a campaign from them over the past four months. We are now going to crush these elements in the electronic media spreading false propaganda." Party workers clapped in appreciation.
This morning, however, Mr Shinde insisted, "I spoke about social media spreading hatred, not journalism."
Condemning Mr Shinde's statement, the BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "You are the home minister of India, you are sitting on a responsible chair, how could you talk like this? You are losing support day by day because of your corruption, (poor) governance, insecurity. Don't blame the media for that."
The minister's remarks come as a series of opinion polls in the national and regional media have predicted a poor showing for the Congress in the Lok Sabha election, due by May.
They also came soon after the Editors Guild released a statement criticising attacks on the media by political leaders; it asked them not to resort to "vague, unsubstantiated charges of corrupt motives and abuses when refuting, questioning or criticising the media and keep the public discourse civil and within reasonable bounds."
The guild objected to statements by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal and former Army Chief VK Singh.
"It is 'distressing' to find a person like General VK Singh using the term 'presstitutes' to describe journalists who wrote a story on the movement of army units causing concern to the government. It is equally disquieting to find Arvind Kejriwal attributing corrupt motives to the media that were critical of him and charging media with being pressured into ignoring him without coming up with specific details or material to substantiate such charges," the Editors Guild said.
Over the weekend, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is reported to have attacked journalists too. "What is a reporter's salary...How much does a news reader earn? Maybe 25,000 (rupees). They are mostly graduates. They are not great thinkers...intellectuals. They write news how they understand it," Mr Parrikar reportedly said.