It might be a streak of coincidence that after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s strong condemnation of Delhi police’s action against NewsClick on Wednesday (Oct. 4), the Kerala High Court castigated the Kerala police for their treatment of the immensely popular online platform ‘Marunadan Malayali’. However, this coincidence will shed light on the double standards of the CPI (M) when it comes to freedom of the press.
On October 3, Delhi police raided the offices of ‘NewsClick’, an online news portal, and arrested two individuals, including its founder Prabir Purkayastha and HR head Amit Chakraborthy, as part of a probe into the foreign funding received by the portal to peddle pro-Chinese propaganda.
In response, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan strongly condemned the Delhi police’s actions, labeling them as ‘objectionable’ and ‘fascist methods of suppressing dissenting voices’, calling for fearless, independent, and honest media in the country. However, the contrast emerges when we observe how media and journalists within his own state have faced harassment from the state government and police for publishing news and criticism against the ruling government.
‘Marunadan Malayali,’ a YouTube news channel, faced multiple legal and police actions based on complaints filed by PV Sreenijin, an MLA belonging to the ruling left front. The police raided Marunadan Malayali’s offices, confiscated equipment, and sealed their office in the state’s capital city in the name of investigation.
The portal’s editor-in-chief, Shajan Skariah, has also been under scrutiny for the portal’s outspoken stance against CM Pinarayi Vijayan and his government, with several fake cases filed across Kerala to curtail his work.
It is noteworthy that even the Kerala High Court questioned the police’s action for confiscating all electronic equipment of ‘Marunadan Malayali’ in a case related to the SC/ST Atrocities Act, directing the police to return the confiscated materials within one week.
While it is evident that the situations surrounding the raids of ‘NewsClick’ and ‘Marunadan Malayali’ cannot be equated, as the former concerns national security and the latter involves stories criticising the ruling government and its CM, the CPI(M) leaders, including Sitaram Yechury, have been criticised for their selective approach to media freedom.
They have actively voiced support for ‘NewsClick’ while ignoring their own government’s actions to suppress an alternative media outlet. This politically convenient shift in their stance highlights the double standards of CPI (M) leaders.