Economic and Political Weekly and Article 19: How freedom of speech and expression was violated by EPW trustees

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
By Kamal Mitra Chenoy*
Some one year after the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) editor C.Rammanohar Reddy was forced out as editor of EPW by the trustees, which we hoped would be unprecedented and a lesson for the EPW trustees, a much greater assault on Article 19 on the Freedom of Speech and Expression has been violated by the EPW trustees including several from whom this appalling behaviour was not expected.
Firstly, an article criticising crony capitalism by the highest politicians and industrialists in the land should always be exposed. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta has earlier exposed the scam on the KG Basin, which was very well received, an example to all those seeking to expose the theft of national wealth and the gross misuse of power. It was widely appreciated.
Now Paranjoy as editor of EPW is forced out by the trustees on grounds that he (1) has subjected the trustees to court action. But what has been threatened by the Adanis is legal not court action. (2) Paranjoy hired a lawyer to protect not only himself but the ideals to which EPW has been long committed.
The trustees sharply criticised him for taking legal advice without their permission. Paranjoy has conceded that he should have cleared this with the trustees but such action was part of due diligence and the protection of EPW.
The trustees variously suggested (a) that the editor should not have a byline. (b) There should be a co-editor. (c) The trustees were unable to distinguish between legal and court action.
If reputed journals are cowed down by legal action how will they function as votaries of freedom of speech and expression? And how will any committed editor function?
There is a pattern here following from the C. Rammanohar Reddy episode. First, the trustees want to sharply diminish the powers of the editor. So the editor should be supplemented by a co-editor. Later, to end up with the formula go-editor. This is simply an attack on Article 19 and will further ensure more attacks on the freedom of the press.
Simply put, this is abdication of responsibility by the trustees, a sharp deviation from the secular and progressive principles for which the EPW is internationally renowned.
In a word, the trustees have failed the very large community of EPW readers and supporters, causing not only the journal but Article19 to be even more vulnerable in the current atmosphere of authoritarian attacks on the media.
As a friend of a number of trustees, I among others feel deeply saddened and gravely worried about the institution of EPW. Even at this late stage, the trustees must reconsider and put freedom of speech and expression in the forefront, irrespective of whatever motivated threats are being cited.
*Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Source: