Development of Press in India


Development of Press in India

History of newspapers in India was dated back to the late 16th century. Portuguese were the first to establish Press Machine in India. After that it was Britishers who established printing Press in India in 1684. James Augustus Hickey started India’s first newspaper named “The Bengal Gazette” on 29th January 1980. It severely criticized the policies of First Governor General of India Warren Hastings. because of this it got shot down in just 2 years. But after this many newspapers were started like ‘Indian Gazette’ in November 1780, Calcutta Gazette in 1784 , The Bengal Journal in 1785 & many more.

The First Indian to publish a newspaper was Gangadhar Bhattacharya who brought ‘Bengal Gazette‘ in English. During British rule in India several regulations and restrictions was imposed on Freedom of the Press in India.

Censorship of the Press Act, 1799

This Act was enacted by Lord Wellesley in 1799 to curb the French from publishing anything in India that could harm Company’s interest. It imposed press restrictions and pre censorship. These restrictions were lifted by Hastings in 1818. 

Licensing Regulations, 1823

This Act was enacted by the Governor General John Adams. According to this Act starting a newspaper without obtaining a license was a penal offence. 

Press Act, 1835

This act was enacted by Lord Metcalfe. He is also known as the Liberator of Indian Press as he ceased the earlier restrictions which were imposed by the Licensing Regulations Act,1823. Bombay Times which became The Times of India started in 1838 by Robert Knight and Thomas Bennett.  

Licensing Act, 1857

After the revolt of 1857 there were severe restrictions imposed on press. It imposed licensing restrictions along with the existing provisions of Metcalfe Act,1835. The government got right to stop publication and circulation of any books, magazines or any printed material. 

Vernacular Press Act,1878

Later half of the 19th century saw the growth of many Indian Vernacular newspapers. Number of Vernacular newspapers during this time were almost 10 times more than that of the English newspapers. Due to the inhuman treatment of the victims of  great famine of 1976-77 there was severe criticism of Lord Lytton’s policies through various vernacular newspapers. Vernacular Press Act, 1878 was enacted to control the vernacular press and to punish the critical writings of the newspapers. Main provisions of this Act was:

  • District magistrate was empowered to call publisher and printer of any vernacular newspaper to enter into a bond with the government under which publisher was not allowed to publish any material which is critical of the government.The publisher and the printer was also made to deposit a security under this Act if the provisions of this Act were contravened then the security will be forfeited.
  •  Decision of the District Magistrate in this case will be final and conclusive. 
  • Because of these restrictions this act was also known as ‘Gagging act’. There was clear discrimination between English and Vernacular newspapers. 
  • Later pre censorship was repealed and a press commissioner was appointed.

Newspaper (Incitement to Offences) Act,1908

  • This Act was passed by Lord Curzon to repress the activities of the Extremist nationalist. 
  • This Act gave the power to the District Magistrate to confiscate the press property if it publishes any objectionable material against the policies of the government. 
  • Appeal against the confiscation of the property can be done in High Court within 15 days.

Indian Press Act,1910

  • This Act again imposed the gagging feature of the Vernacular press,Act 1878. Main provisions of this act was:
  • Local Government was empowered to demand security from the publisher and printer at the time of the registration of the newspaper.
  • Printer of the newspaper has to submit two copies of each issue to the local government at free of cost.
  • In 1921 on the recommendations of the Press Committee chaired by Tej Bahadur Sapru ,Press Acts of 1908 and 1910 were repealed.

Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act,1931

This Act was enacted to give powers to the provincial governments to suppress Civil Disobedience Movement. 

List of some Important Newspapers published during British Rule in India

Newspaper Year and Place Founder/Publisher
Bengal Gazette 1780, Calcutta James Augustus Hickey
India Gazette 1787, Calcutta Henry Vivian Derozio was associated with this
The Bengal Journal 1785, Calcutta Thomas Jones and William Duane
Bengal Gazette( First Bengali Newspaper) 1818, Calcutta Harishchandra Roy
Sambad Kamudi 1821, Calcutta Raja Ram Mohan Roy
Mirat-ul-Akbar 1822, Calcutta Raja Ram Mohan Roy
Bombay Times 1838, Bombay Robert Knight and Thomas Bennett
Indian Mirror 1862, Calcutta Devendranath Tagore 
Bengalee  1862, Calcutta Girishchandra Ghosh
Amrita Bazar 1868, Jessore Sisirkumar Ghosh and Motilal Ghosh
The Hindu 1878, Madras GS Aiyar, Viraraghavchari and Subba Rao Pandit
The Tribune 1881, Lahore Dayal Singh Majeetia
Kesari in Maratha and Maharatta in English 1881, Bombay BG Tilak, VC Chiplunkar and Agarkar
Yugantar 1906, Bengal Barindra Kumar Ghosh and Bhupendranath Dutta
Sandhya  1906, Bengal Brhamanabandab Upadhay
Bombay Chronical 1913,Bombay Pherozshah Mehta, BG Horniman
Comrade (English Weekly) 1911 Maulana Mohammad Ali
Nav Jeevan (Weekly) 1929 MK Gandhi








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