On December 8, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra’s videos appeared on social media platforms in which she was heard calling media persons “two-paisa worth”. A person at the party meeting was asked to leave by the MP. As per the reports, when he introduced himself as a reporter, Krishnanagar MP Moitra got furious and asked him to leave. The incident took place on Sunday in the Nadia district.
Liberals darling Mahua Moitra now labelled journalists as “Two paisa’s press” (“দু’পয়সার প্রেস”)! It is the same @AITCofficial culture which she adopted very soon! #TMCJungleRaj pic.twitter.com/z0N4pcJs0b— AJOY DASGUPTA (@ajoydasgupta) December 7, 2020
In the now-viral video, she was heard saying in Bengali, “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.”
Kolkata Press Club expressed displeasure
Kolkata Press Club has issued a statement in which they said they are deeply concerned about the comments. They said, “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.” Snehasis Sur, a veteran journalist and president of the Kolkata Press Club, criticized her statement and said, “We don’t need to hear from Moitra how this institution has contributed to journalism during the Independence struggle, the Bangladesh war or the Emergency.”
“I was not talking to the press,” explains Moitra
Indian Express has quoted her defending the remarks. She said that the reporter was called by someone who was unhappy with the recent changes in the organization. It was a closed-door meeting. When she was asked about the criticism by Kolkata Press Club, she 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 described the whole incident in her words. She said that Bapi Chatterjee, a TMC leader, was the party president in Gayeshpur last year, but he was replaced by Mintu Dey. However, political strategist Prashant Kishor later reinstated Chatterjee that angered Dey. Chatterjee was labelled as an outsider as he was from the Kalyan area located in the neighbourhood of Gayeshpur.
On Sunday, she went to the party meeting to resolve the internal issues. When she reached there, they were holding placards that read, “Outsider president manbo naa (We will not accept an outsider as president).” There were altercations between the supporters of Mintu and Bapi when she arrived at the venue.
On entering the auditorium, she noticed only Bapi’s men were present, so she went outside to call Mintu and his supporters. She noticed a huge gathering outside and saw some people recording the conversation with the party workers. She said this was the time she made the remarks, “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?”
She further said, “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.”
Mahua defends her statement with a meme
Though during the conversation with the news agency, she said the person she referred to as ‘two-paisa press’ was ‘not’ from the press, and she spoke to ‘real journalists’ after the meeting, her meme on Twitter seems to say that she meant whatever she said.
Moitra had shared a tweet in which she wrote, “My meme-editing skills are improving!” with the image on which she had placed an old 2-paisa coin with the text “I apologize for the mean hurtful things I said.”
Moitra’s statement attracted in-party criticism
TMC’s panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee held a press conference at TMC headquarters and said what Moitra said is not the party’s opinion. Mamata Banerjee believes in the media and shares information with the press. We maintain a cordial relationship with the media even if you write against us.”
Moitra had tried to use her parliamentary privilege against Zee News
Mahua Moitra has been in the news often for rather controversial reasons. She had once shown “the middle finger” to a news editor on live TV. Her maiden speech in the Lok Sabha was in the news for being allegedly plagiarised. However, when Zee News Editor Sudhir Chaudhary said that it was plagiarised, Moitra had tried to browbeat Chaudhary by submitting a breach of privilege motion against Chaudhary claiming that he had falsely reported her maiden address in the lower house of the parliament. However, the Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla did not accept the breach of privilege motion submitted by the Trinamool MP then.
Moitra had then proceeded to file criminal defamation charges against Sudhir Chaudhary and Zee News. When Zee News and Sudhir Chaudhary did not relent, Moitra had started a number of public rants against the media house, calling them derogatory words like “thieves, paid news, budbak” etc. In response, Zee News had also filed a criminal defamation suit against her.