The way I look at it is that a journalist or an editor should not accept any of these -- not even the box of dryfruits/chocolates costing Rs 500 or more. But I have seen, over the years, senior-level journalists and editors shamelessly accepting these and setting an ugly example for other journalists in their offices. They may not take all these boxes home and instead distribute the contents of some of these boxes internally, even among the peons and office assistants, but I still think this is a pernicious practise that needs to be strongly condemned by all right-thinking individuals.
If the editors and senior journalists do not care about ethics on their own it is high time that readers remind them to start caring. If you are a reader of a newspaper or a magazine, or a viewer of a TV news channel, fetch their email address (Letters to Editor or some other) and email them saying you would not approve if their journalists/editors are availing of Diwali gifts or gifts during any other time either.
As a journalist, myself, I am too sent such boxes. I have given a standing instruction to my office reception to whom the courier deliveries come to refuse to accept any boxes that look like they would be Diwali boxes. But sometimes the corporate communication officials or the PR company officials visit offices directly and leave boxes at the reception. Like, for instance, earlier this year, sometime in March I think, during the Holi festival, 2-3 corporation communication officials of Multi-Commodity Exchange of India had come to my office to distribute Holi sweets. They had got boxes for 3-4 journalists in my office including me. Now, without telling me anything about the box they just left it behind. I was furious. It becomes a time-consuming exercise to trace these guys back and tell them to take back their boxes. Last year (2007) during Diwali, Vaishnavi Communication, the PR company for the Tata Group, had sent me a dryfruit box on behalf of one of the Tata group of companies (I forget the name). It was left at the reception and I was not in office on that particular day. Later, I had to call them and ask them to send their person to take it back.
If all journalists and editors return all the gifts it will send a strong stinging message to the companies and PR companies not to take us for granted.