Asserting that journalists are an integral part of the Indian democratic process, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Monday said the journalistic fraternity must be treated with due respect and regard.
"Well, I think journalists are an integral part of our democratic process. They are as important to democracy as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. They are really the fourth pillar of the very unique and diverse democratic tradition of this country, and I think we must treat our journalistic fraternity with due respect and regard," said Tewari.
"At times, they are irreverent, at times intemperate also, but then the freedom of expression and speech involves also the right to offend and we must keep that within our purview," he added.
The Information and Broadcasting Minister's comment comes just days after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee vented her ire at photojournalists at a cultural festival in Burdwan district.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Saugata Roy, however, today defended Banerjee's action, and said that she is being unfairly criticised by a section of the media.
"That is because some media houses are acting in a motivated way to malign the chief minister and bring down her prestige. They are doing harm to the state by trying to pull down a democratically elected chief minister," Roy told media in Kolkata, when asked why was Banerjee angry with the journalists.
"So, she is naturally angry that they are twisting whatever she says. They are blowing up whatever she says. So, the chief minister is naturally angry; any human being would be angry," he added.
The latest outburst from Banerjee came while she was inaugurating the Matir Utsav" (Festival of the Soil) at Panagarh in Bardhaman district.
"Can't u see that people are cooking here? I will give you one slap," she said, angry with photojournalists jostling for space there.
Banerjee had recently been criticised for shouting at security personnel at the Kolkata Book Fair on February 6. (ANI)