· The evolution of
Indian press during British rule was filled with difficulties like illiteracy,
colonial pressure and repression. But later on, it became a prominent tool for
the freedom struggle.
· The first printing press was established by Portuguese in 1556.
· First newspaper of India was established in 1780 by James Augustus Hickey named Calcutta General Advertiser or The Bengal Gazette. He is considered as the ‘Father of Indian press’.
o Bengal Gazette is also sometimes known as Hickey’s Gazette.
· This newspaper was later seized by the government in 1782.
§ It was enacted by Lord Wellesley to prevent French from spreading rumors which could harm British.
§ According to this act, every newspaper should contain the names of the printer, editor and proprietor.
§ Before printing anything, it should be submitted to the secretary of Censorship.
§ It was enacted by John Adams.
§ Every publisher was required to get a license from the government.
§ In case of default, the penalty was Rs 400 and the press would be ceased by the government.
§ Government has the right to cancel the license also.
§ Charles Metcalfe, also called Liberator of Indian press, repealed 1823 rules by John Adams.
o This continued till 1856 which led to the growth of the newspaper in India.
§ Due to emergency caused by the revolt of 1857, the government imposed licensing instructions on the procedure laid in the Press act of 1835.
§ The government even reserved the right to stop publication and circulation of the book, newspaper or printed matter.
§ It replaced the Press act of 1835 or Metcalfe’s Act.
§ It was regulatory in nature.
§ As per this act every newspaper/book should have the name of the publisher, place of the publication and the name of the printer.
§ A copy of the published material was required to be submitted to the local government within a month.
§ The vernacular press (local language press) used to criticize British rule. Therefore the British came down heavily to curb vernacular press in 1878.
§ It was nicknamed ‘Gagging Act’.
§ Lord Lytton was responsible for this act.
§ According to this, Magistrates were authorized to ask any publisher of newspaper to give assurance of not publishing anything threatening peace and security in the country.
§ Magistrate decision was final in any dispute.
§ This law was not applicable to the English press.
§ This Act empowered the government to issue search warrants, and enter newspaper premises even without court orders.
§ More stringent laws were enacted when the freedom movement gained momentum. Every reporting was closely monitored and comments against the government were not tolerated.
o Surendranath Banerjee was the first Indian journalist to be imprisoned for criticizing a judge of Calcutta high court in 1883.
§ The Gagging law was repealed in 1881 by Lord Ripon.
§ Magistrates were empowered to confiscate printing press or property connected to the newspaper, which published objectionable material like incitement to murder or acts of violence.
§ Newspapers were allowed to appeal in high court within 15 days.
§ This measure was put into effect in order to curtail and restrict the emerging Indian Freedom Struggle, particularly during the arrival of World War I.
§ It empowered the local government to demand a security deposit of Rs. 500 to Rs. 2000 which could be forfeited and its registration cancelled owing to the printing of any objectionable material.
§ On the recommendation of Press committee chaired by Tej Bahadur Sapru, the press act of 1908 and 1910 were repealed.
§ Impact of Gandhian movement provoked the government to issue an ordinance in 1930.
§ Provincial governments were given the power to suppress the press.
§ In 1932 provisions of the act further amplified in the form of criminal amendment act.
§ During the 2nd World War pre-censorship reinforced and amended under the Press emergent Act in 1931 and official secrets Act.
§ Under this act, Congress and its activities were declared illegal.
§ Registration of journalist was made compulsory.
§ Messages regarding civil disturbances and news regarding acts of sabotage were restricted.
§ There were limitations on headlines and space given to news on disturbances.
§ The government had authority on arbitrary censorship.
§ Was set up to examine the press law in the light of fundamental rights by the constituent assembly.
§ It recommended the repeal of Indian Emergency Powers Act, 1931 and amendments in other acts.
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