Development of Indian Press during British Rule in India
In 1780, James Augustus Hickey started “The Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertiser” which was seized in 1872 because of its outspoken criticism of the Government. Later, more newspaper newspaper/journals came up - The Bengal Journal, Calcutta Chronicle, Madras Courier, and Bombay Herald. And this effort of Hickey laid the foundation of press in India. The evolution of Indian Press is discussed below:
Lord Wellesley enacted Censorship of Press Act, 1799
It was enacted by the Lord Wellesley, anticipating French invasion of India. It imposed almost wartime press restrictions including pre-censorship which was later relaxed by the Lord hasting.
Licensing Regulations, 1823
It was enacted by the John Adams. According to this regulation, press without licence was a penal offence. The restriction was directed mainly to Indian language newspapers or those edited by the Indians.
Press Act of 1835 or Metcalfe Act
Metcalfe (Governor General – 1835 – 36) repealed the obnoxious 1823 ordinance and was named, “liberator of the Indian press”
Licensing Act, 1857
This act imposed licensing restriction and the right to stop publication and circulation of book, newspaper or printed matter reserved with the Government.
Registration Act, 1867
This act relaxed the restrictions put by Metcalf‘s Act of 1835 and hence states that Government acts as regulatory not restrictive body.
Vernacular Press Act, 1878
It was constituted for ‘better control’ of the vernacular press and effectively punished and repressed seditious writing. The provisions of the Act are given below:
1. The district magistrate was empowered to call upon the printer and publisher of any vernacular newspaper to enter into a bond with the Government undertaking not to cause disaffection against the government or antipathy between persons of different religions, caste, race through published material; the printer and publisher could also be required to deposit security which could be seized if the offences reoccurred.
2. The magistrate’s action was final and no appeal could be made in a court of law.
3. A vernacular newspaper could get an exemption from the operation of the Act by submitting proof to a government censor.
Newspaper (Incitement to Offences) Act, 1908
This act empowered the magistrates to confiscate press property which published objectionable material likely to cause incitement to murder/acts of violence against the Extremist nationalist activity.
Indian Press Act, 1910
This act was a revision of the Vernacular Act that empowered the local government to demand a security at registration from the printer/publisher and forfeit/deregister if it was an offending newspaper, and the printer of a newspaper was required to submit two copies of each issue to local government
In a nutshell, we can say that the evolution of Indian press was fraught with developmental difficulties, illiteracy, colonial constraints and repression. It disseminated the ideas of freedom and became a prominent tool for freedom struggle.
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