Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of The Statesman, Cushrow Russy Irani, 74, passed away on July 23 in Kolkata, bringing to an end his 37-year innings at the helm of one of the country’s pioneering English dailies as well as an exemplary saga of fearless journalism.
A lawyer by training, Irani joined The Statesman as its Managing Director in 1968 after having worked in the insurance sector. He took over as the Editor-in-Chief of the daily in 1991. In 2003, he relinquished the post of Managing Director but continued to head its board of directors as Chairman.
An avowed crusader of press freedom, Irani will be especially remembered and respected for his defiance of the government during the Emergency in the seventies. His forthrightness was also particularly manifest in his signature Caveat column that appeared regularly on the front page of The Statesman for a number of years confronting diverse issues ranging from the fundamental or international to even topical or local ones, where he felt there had been some wrong or unfairness.
Irani was naturally associated with several press freedom organisations all over the world, including its apex body, the World Press Freedom Committee, of which he also served as Vice-President. This apart, Irani also has been the Chairman of the Press Trust of India for three terms and was a member of its current board of directors, President of the Indian Newspaper Society, Chairman of the Audit Bureau of Circulation, and part of the governing body of the Advertising Standards Council of India.
Irani wrote several books such as Bengal - The Communist Challenge, Ayodhya –Demolishing a Dream, In Pursuit of Freedom and Pax Americana – The war that Lost Iraq its Freedom, apart from compilations of his widely read Caveat.
As messages of condolence pour in from media personalities and heads of states alike, it may be gainsaid that several generations of Calcuttans, who grew up on his genre of journalism, will certainly miss his clarity and candour.