Vir Sanghvi Exercises His Free Speech

Who doesn’t love a good media brawl? Vir Sanghvi’s just put up a blog post explaining why he won’t write for Mint any more. An excerpt:

I will not write for a publication that censors its columnists and denies them the right to free speech while writing long, impassioned pieces about the freedom to criticize others from the Prime Minister downwards. All of us exhibit double standards to some degree. But Mint’s hypocrisy takes my breath away.

Notice what is curious about that excerpt? While Sanghvi is accusing Mint of denying him the right to free speech, he is exercising that very right on his own blog. The very fact that he is able to make the accusation, thus, invalidates the accusation itself.

From what I can make of the controversy, Mint refused to carry Sanghvi’s piece criticizing them. It is their paper, their space, and they were within their rights to do this. They did not stop Sanghvi from publishing the piece himself—as indeed he has. They exercised their right to their property—he exercised his right to free speech. For him to claim that they censored him is just factually incorrect.

Imagine, for example, if Raj Thackeray was to come to your house and demand that he make a speech from your living room window. Obviously you’d say, “This is my house, get the hell outta here!” Would you then be censoring Thackeray, and denying him his right to free speech?

I am not defending Mint here, merely quibbling with Sanghvi’s careless choice of words. If Mint portrays itself as being open to criticism, and denied its star columnist freedom over what he writes, then Sanghvi’s allegation of hypocrisy might well be justified. But I don’t know the details of this case, and will withhold judgment.

Disclosure: I used to be a columnist with Mint until last year.

Also read:

1] Anant Rangaswami’s rejoinder to Sanghvi’s criticism of his publication, (Not) learning from Vir Sanghvi. The semantics at the end of his post are much fun.

2] For more of my thoughts on the basis of the right to free speech, as well as all other rights, check out these three pieces:

a] The Origin of Human Rights.

b] Shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre

c] The Flying Spaghetti Monster v Private Property

(Sanghvi and Rangaswamy links via emails from Rahul and Salil respectively.)