History of Newspapers in India

  • April 26, 2024
  • Dushyant Sharma
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A newspaper is a type of a print media for spreading the latest information. For centuries, a newspaper has been considered a cherished part of Indian society. Its primary duty is to serve as the nation’s watchdog. It also functions as an effective tool for entertainment and education.

 

In this article, we will discuss the history of newspapers in India.

The Journey of Newspapers in India during Colonial Rule

In 1780, India got its very first newspaper and the man who made it possible was the Irishman James Augustus Hickey. This first newspaper was known as ‘The Bengal Gazette’, otherwise called ‘Hickey’s Bengal Gazette or the ‘Calcutta General Advertiser’. The Bengal Gazette lasted just two years before it was seized in 1782 by the British administration due to its outspoken criticism about the British Raj. After this newspaper, several other newspapers were launched in the Indian market such as Bombay Herald, The Bengal Journal, Calcutta Chronicle and Madras Courier. However, the British East India Company had imposed censorship measures on them. 

 

Several acts were enacted by the British administration to regulate the press in the country throughout 1799, 1818 and 1823. Although with the enactment of the Press Act of 1835 or the Metcalfe Act, a more liberal press policy was introduced. This only lasted till 1857’s revolt after which the Licensing Act was introduced. The Licensing Act of 1857 gave the government the power to halt publication and circulation of any newspaper, book or printed matter.  

 

In 1867, the British administration enacted the Registration Act, which mandated every book or newspaper to contain the name of the printer, publisher and the place of publication. In addition to this, all the published books were required to be submitted to the local government within a month of their publication.

 

Introduced in 1878, by then Viceroy Lord Lytton, the Vernacular Press Act became one of the most stringent regulations on Indian Press’ freedom. This act granted the government rights to censor reports and editorials in the vernacular press. This act was basically an attempt to prevent the vernacular press from criticizing the British policies. The Vernacular Press Act was imposed on Non-English newspapers. Due to this, Bengal’s Amrita Bazar Patrika began publishing in English since this Act was not imposed on newspapers published in English. The Vernacular Press Act was referred to as the Gagging Act by many. 

 

Between the period of 1908 to 1912, four new measures were enacted namely:

  • The Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act enacted in 1908;
  • The Criminal Law Amendment Act enacted in 1908;
  • The Press Act enacted in 1910;
  • The Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act enacted in 1911.

The Press was widely used by Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March to rally the masses against the colonial administration. Due to this, tensions were further heightened between the British government and the Press. After Gandhi’s arrest in 1930, The Press (Emergency Powers) Act of 1931 was enacted which granted the provincial governments censorship powers.

 

Due to such acts of censorship, the All-India Newspapers Editors’ Conference was conceived with the aim of protecting the press rights of newspapers. It fought with the colonial government for lifting the restrictions and advocated for better relations with the government.

Journey of Newspapers in India after Independence 

In 1947, the Press Enquiry Committee was set up to examine press laws in the light of fundamental rights stated by the Constituent Assembly. The committee recommended the revocation of Indian Emergency Powers Act (1931), modifications in Sections 124-A and 156-A of IPC and amendments in the Press and Registration of Books Act.

 

The Press (Objectionable Matters) Act was passed along with amendment to the Constitution’s Article 19 (2). The Act empowered the government to demand and forfeit security for any objectionable matter’s publication. The aggrieved owners and printers were granted the right to demand trial by the jury. This act was in force till 1956.

 

In 1954, under Justice Rajadhyaksha, a Press Commission was set up. This commission recommended the establishment of All India Press Council, banning crossword puzzle competitions, fixing the presspage reschedule system, evolving a strict code of advertisements by newspapers, etc.

 

Today, there is no formal body for exclusively dealing with the press’ freedom in India. All matters which concern the press’ freedom are dealt with under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which states that “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression…” . This freedom is restricted under Article 19(2) that prevents absolute power under 19(1).

 

Today, news channels are governed by the system of self-regulation. News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and Broadcast Editors Association (BEA) are two well-known self-regulatory organizations in India that self-regulate the news content aired on television. The Press Council of India, which was established in 1966, acts as the regulator for defining and discharging professional standards for print media in the country. Its aim is to preserve press freedom and maintain and improve the press standards. 

 

The electronic media has to comply with the guidelines of Central News Media Accreditation Guidelines, 1999. For those who want to start a newspaper’s publication, RNI Registration is mandatory. This registration is granted by the Registrar of Newspapers. Without RNI Registration, a newspaper cannot be published legally.

Conclusion

James August Hickey, often regarded as the ‘Father of Indian Journalism’, paved the way for newspapers in India. Through Hickey’s Bengal Gazette, Indians gave voice to their anger over the British Raj. Even now, newspapers are commonly used for sharing or expressing opinions of the innocent victims, politicians, astrologers, celebrities, etc. Want to know how to apply for Newspaper Registration in India? Connect with Registrationwala.


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Dushyant Sharma
Author: Dushyant Sharma

Hey there, I'm Dushyant Sharma. With the extensive knowledge I've gained in past 8 years, I have been creating content on various subjects such as banking, insurance, telecom, and all the important registration and licensing processes for various companies. I'm here to help everyone with my expertise in these areas through my articles.

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