Preserving the commons: An editorial note

A most unfortunate turn of events has unfolded over the past couple of days with The Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd. filing a complaint with the District Police Chief, Kozhikode City, regarding an article published by Bodhi Commons. The article in question, “Mathurbhumiyile nadukadathalum madhyamangalile swathanthryavum,” published on January 17, 2013, dealt with protests by journalists against the attitude of the Mathrubhumi management to Majithia wage board reforms and the alleged victimization that ensued.

Bodhi had published this article which was originally carried by several Malayalam portals given its general relevance to the public and Bodhi’s objectives. First and foremost, we saw this as a workers’ struggle that pitted the interests of journalists against the interests of capital as represented by Mathrubhumi management. Secondly, we saw this as deeply interlinked with the crucial question of concentration and corporatization of media ownership in these neoliberal times. On both these counts, Bodhi as a platform that strives to promote left-progressive politics, found this article worthy of being carried in our portal and we did so after a democratic editorial team review.

In the meantime, we have learned that other web portals who had published this article have also been served notices of police inquiry. Given the request to remove the article, we decided to undertake a full editorial review as outlined in Bodhi’s editorial policy. At the conclusion of the editorial review, we have decided to retain the article with some modifications to reflect our editorial mandate and review guidelines. We are hopeful that this article gains broad readership so that these crucial issues that concern public interest are discussed and deliberated upon with all the seriousness that it deserves.

On the other hand, we are concerned that following up on this initial police inquiry, draconian laws may be invoked in order to suppress freedom of speech. Mathrubhumi, as a publication, has stood for democratic ethos and fought state repression even in the darkest times of Indian democracy. It is deplorable and ironic that a media organization like Mathrubhumi, when confronted with charges of trampling on the basic workers’ right to unionize and demand higher wages, chooses to invoke draconian laws to muzzle freedom of speech, which it claims to uphold and protect.

The people of Kerala have a rich history of actively resisting attempts to curtail workers’ rights and freedom of speech; this is indeed part of our cherished commons. We request all proponents of democracy in society to come forward and stand in solidarity with those who are facing repression. We are confident that together, we shall resist and defeat such moves to imprison thoughts and monopolize our commons.