History of Indian Press accounts for the prestigious growth of Indian newspapers and its significance in Indian history as well. India is the world’s largest democracy. Its mass media culture, a system that has evolved over centuries, is comprised of a complex framework. Modernization has transformed this into a communications network that sustains the pulse of a democracy of about 1.1 billion people. India’s newspaper evolution is nearly unmatched in world press history. India’s newspaper industry and its Westernization—or modernization as French would call it—go hand in hand. India’s press is a metaphor for its advancement in the globalized world.
Father of Indian press
James Augustus Hickey “father of Indian press” in 1780 started The Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertiser, the first newspaper in India, which was seized in 1872 because of its outspoken criticism of the Government. The first newspaper in an Indian language was in Bengali, named as the ‘Samachar Darpan’. The first issue of this day was published by the Serampore Mission Press on May 23, 1818. In the very same year, Ganga Kishore Bhattacharya started publishing another newspaper in Bengali, the Bengal Gazette.
Later more newspapers/journals came up—The Bengal journal, Calcutta Chronicle, Madras Courier, Bombay Herald. The Company’s officers were worried that these newspapers might reach London and expose their misdeeds. Thus they saw the need for curbs on the press.
Press Act of 1835 or Metcalfe
Act Metcalfe governor- general—1835-36) repealed the obnoxious 1823 ordinance and earned the epithet, “liberator of the Indian press”. The new Press Act (1835) required a printer/publisher to give a precise account of premises of a publication and cease functioning if required by a similar declaration.
Struggle By Early Nationalists To Secure Press Freedom
- Right from the early nineteenth century, defence of civil liberties, including the freedom of the press, had been high on nationalist agenda. As early as 1824, Raja Rammohan Roy had protested against a resolution restricting the freedom of the press.
- The early phase of nationalist movement from around 1870 to 1918 focussed more on political propaganda and education, formation and propagation of nationalist ideology and arousing, training, mobilisation and consolidation of public opinion, than on mass agitation or active mobilisation of masses through open meetings.
- Many newspapers emerged during these years under distinguished and fearless journalists. These included Hindu and Swadesamitran under G. Subramaniya Aiyar, The Bengalee under Surendranath Banerjea, Voice of India under Dadabhai Naoroji, Amrita Bazar Patrika under Sisir Kumar Ghosh and Motilal Ghosh, Indian Mirror under N.N. Sen, Kesari (in Marathi) and Maharatta (in English) under Balgangadhar Tilak, Sudharak under Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Hindustan and Advocate under G.P. Verma.
- Other main newspapers included Tribune and Akbhar-i-am in Punjab, Gujarati, Indu Prakash, Dhyan Prakash and Kal in Bombay and Som Prakash, Banganivasi and Sadharani in Bengal.
- These newspapers were not established as profit-making business ventures but were seen as rendering national and public service. In fact, these newspapers had a wide reach and they stimulated a library movement.
Vernacular Press Act, 1878
A bitter legacy of the 1857 revolt was the racial bitterness between the ruler and the ruled. After 1858, the European press always rallied behind the Government in political controversies while the vernacular press was critical of the Government. There was a strong public opinion against the imperialistic policies of Lytton, compounded by terrible famine (1876-77), on the one hand, and lavish expenditure on the imperial Delhi Durbar, on the other.
“The Vernacular Press Act (VPA) was designed to ‘better control’ the vernacular press and effectively punish and repress seditious writing.”
Basic Facts Of Our Nation Media
- Language(s): English, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi
- Literacy rate:52.0%
- Number of Daily Newspapers:398
- Total Circulation:30,772,000
- Circulation per 1,000:50
- Number of Nondaily Newspapers:98
- Total Circulation:7,774,000Circulation per 1,000:13
- Total Newspaper Ad Receipts:35,624 (Rupees millions)
- Number of Television Stations:562
- Number of Television Sets:63,000,000
- Television Sets per 1,000:61.2
- Number of Radio Stations:312
- Number of Radio Receivers:116,000,000
- Radio Receivers per 1,000:112.6
- Number of Individuals with Computers:4,600,000
- Computers per 1,000:4.5
- Number of Individuals with Internet Access:5,000,000
- Internet Access per 1,000:4.
Press Freedom Suffers For Our Basic Rights
As Bengaluru editor Gauri Lankesh was murdered on September 5, 2017, 142 attacks against journalists for “grievous hurt” were registered nationwide over two years to 2015, according to the latest available National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. As many 70 journalists were killed in India over 24 years to 2016, according to the Committee To Protect Journalists, a nonprofit.
As many 73 people were arrested for the 142 attacks, revealed in NCRB data quoted in this reply to the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) by Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, minister of state for home, on July 26, 2017.
Lankesh was the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike a Kannada tabloid and a critic of Hindu right-wing ideologies and organisations.
Uttar Pradesh (UP) registered the most cases (64) over two years but only four persons have been arrested. UP was followed by Madhya Pradesh (26) and Bihar (22). The three states accounted for 79% of all cases registered across the country. Madhya Pradesh reported the most arrests (42): 10 in 2014 and 32 in 2015.
Reports Says Harsh Realities
- The NCRB started collecting data on the attack on journalists since 2014, the minister said in his reply. Cases were registered for “grievous hurt” under sections 325, 326, 326A & 326B of the Indian Penal Code. Of 142 cases registered, 114 were reported in 2014 and 28 in 2015.
- India was ranked 136 of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), an advocacy.
- “Journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals….journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent,” RWB said in the report.
- “The sources of RWB in India are ambiguous, and the sampling is quite random in nature which does not portray a proper and comprehensive picture of freedom of the press in India,” Ahir said in his reply to Rajya Sabha.