K.M Mathew, Chief Editor of the Malayala Manorama newspaper and a longtime friend of the International Press Institute (IPI), passed away at his residence in Kerala, India on Sunday. He was 93. IPI joins Mr. Mathew’s family, friends and colleagues in mourning his death.
Mr. Mathew was laid to rest, with full state honours. Thousands of people attended the funeral of the man who had come to be seen as a pioneer of Indian journalism. The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi were among those who expressed their condolences.
Mr. Mathew’s association with journalism began in 1954, when he joined the family-owned Malayala Manorama in 1954 as its General Manager and Managing Editor. In 1973 he became its Chief Editor, and led the paper into a new era of modernization and expansion, and from a paper with a few thousand subscribers and one edition to one with millions of readers and over 16 editions. Under his leadership, the Manorama group grew into a pioneering media company, with an international presence and over 46 publications.
He was a firm believer in the value of a free press in a democracy, and in the need for objective, unbiased and professional journalism. His conviction that professional journalism was a prerequisite for strong media brought him to IPI, over half a century ago. Mr. Mathew and IPI worked together for several decades to bring training and professional skills to journalists in Kerala, and in other parts of the country, and to establish an international code of ethics for journalists.
IPI Member and World Press Freedom Hero Sir Harold Evans said, in a tribute to Mr. Mathew: “The first time I met him is some fifty years ago when we were together in the first of the workshops of the International Press Institute in Delhi where a group of leading editors from all over the subcontinent worked with a number of international editors and publishers to try and answer the question Prime Minister Nehru posed: "Why can't I reach more of our people through our newspapers?
“As the years went by, those who had met him were thrilled by the determination with which he carried his convictions into practice, answering Nehru's question with such success at the Manorama, then other publications and television.
“He served the country he loved - and the world – through his dedication to public service, true to the inspiration of Manorama's first founding editor, K.C. Mammen Mappillai. He was a courageous innovator and a kind, generous and loving family man.
“We are all poorer for his absence, but richer for his presence with us.”
IPI Interim Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “K.M Mathew was a visionary and a pioneer, and he will be sorely missed. We are grateful for his long years of friendship, and are certain that his memories, and the values he espoused, will live on in his newspaper.”