Development Of Indian Press During British Rule

Development of Indian Press During British Rule


The British are credited with introducing participatory journalism or an independent press to India during the colonial era. The British government, however, made more of an attempt to control the Indian press in order to stop the propagation of patriotic sentiments through it. Developmental difficulties, illiteracy, colonial restrictions, and repression complicated the emergence of the Indian press. It propagated liberation ideologies and emerged as a crucial tool in the fight for freedom. 


•    "The Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertiser" was established by James Augustus Hickey in 1780 however, because of its vehement criticism of the government, it was taken over in 1872.
•    Hickey's initiatives created the foundation for the Indian press.
•    Later, more publications including The Bengal Journal, Calcutta Chronicle, Madras Courier, and Bombay Herald started to appear.
•    The Company's officers were worried that these newspapers would get to London and reveal their transgressions.
•    They realized the necessity of press constraints as a result. 
Development of Indian Press During British Rule


Press Censorship Act of 1799

•    To stop the French from publishing anything disparaging of the British, Governor-General Richard Wellesley passed the Censorship of Press Act in 1799.
•    All newspapers were now reviewed by the government before publishing as a result of this statute. Later, in 1807, this statute was expanded to cover all forms of press publications, such as newspapers, magazines, books, and pamphlets.
•    The regulations were loosened when Francis Hastings (1813–1823) assumed office in 1818.

Licensing Regulation, 1823

•    The Licensing Regulation Ordinance was first introduced in 1823 by Governor-General John Adams.
•    This law made it illegal to operate a press without a permit.
•    The majority of the newspapers targeted by the ban were those published in or edited by Indians.
•    As a result, Raja Ram Mohun Roy decided to stop publishing his 1822-founded Persian periodical "Mirat-ul-akhbar."

Press Act 1835 (Metcalfe Act)

•    The 1823 Licensing Regulations were repealed by the 1835 Press Act, sometimes referred to as the Metcalfe Act.
•    In India, Metcalfe gained notoriety as the "liberator of the press."
•    A printer/publisher was obligated under the legislation to give a thorough account of the location of a publication and to stop business operations if a declaration of a similar nature was made.
•    The fast expansion of newspapers was the outcome of a liberal press policy.

Licencing Act 1857 

•    The Licensing Act of 1857 was passed by Governor General Canning (who would later become Viceroy in 1858) to place greater limitations on the press following the Revolt of 1857.
•    This law established licensing requirements and gave the government the ability to prevent any book, newspaper, or other printed material from being published or distributed. 

Registration Act 1867

•    The Registration Act of 1867 repealed the Metcalfe Act of 1835.
•    It was claimed that the statute placed rules but not limitations on the press.
•    The print media now had to include the name of the printer, publisher, and location of publishing, and a copy had to be given to the government.

Vernacular Press Act 1878 

•    It was put in place to "better control" the popular press, and it successfully repressed and punished seditious writing.
•    The printer and publisher of any vernacular newspaper could be ordered by the district magistrate to sign a bond with the government promising not to publish any content that would incite hatred between members of different castes, religions, or races.
•    Additionally, the printer and publisher might be asked to put up security that might be taken if the offences recurred.
•    There was no right of appeal to the magistrate's ruling in a court of law.
•    A government censor could accept documentation from a local newspaper to grant it an exemption from the Act's application. 

The Newspaper (Incitement to Offence) Act of 1908 

•    The Newspaper (Incitement to Offence) Act of 1908 gave magistrates the authority to seize press assets that published offensive content that would inspire homicide or other violent crimes.
•    This act was brought about by extreme nationalist activities both during and after the Swadeshi agitation of 1906.

Indian Press Act 1910 

•    This law was a reform of the Vernacular Act, which gave local governments the authority to request a security from a newspaper's printer or publisher at registration and to forfeit or deregister a violating publication. Printers of newspapers were also compelled to give local governments two copies of each issue.


•    Nationalists have prioritized the defense of civil freedoms, particularly press freedom, since the early nineteenth century. As early as 1824, Raja Rammohan Roy objected to a law that limited the freedom of the press.
•    The early nationalist movement, which lasted from about 1870 to 1918, concentrated more on the development and spread of nationalist ideas as well as political education and propaganda.
•    In order to achieve this, nationalists found the press to be a useful instrument. The Indian National Congress initially only used the press to publicize its decisions and sessions.
•    Many new newspapers with notable journalists debuted during this time.
•    These publications were started to serve the people and the country, not to generate a profit.
•    In fact, these publications attracted a sizable readership and gave rise to the library movement.
•    These newspapers' influence extended beyond cities and towns; it also reached isolated villages, where each editorial and news item was carefully studied and discussed in the "local libraries" centered on a single newspaper.
•    These libraries thus fulfilled the dual objectives of promoting political involvement and political education.
•    These publications examined government actions and regulations. They served as a government-opposing organization.
Development of Indian Press During British Rule


First World War period

•    The Defense of India Rules were put into place during the First World War to stifle political dissent and unrestricted public criticism.
•    On the advice of a Press Committee led by Tej Bahadur Sapru, the Press Acts of 1908 and 1910 were abolished in 1921.
•    Following the Salt Satyagraha, the Indian Press (Emergency Power) Act of 1931 was enacted.
•    It provided sweeping powers to censor any publication that questioned the legitimacy of the government during the civil disobedience campaign.
•    This Act granted provincial government’s broad authority to stifle propaganda supporting civil disobedience.
•    In 1932, it was broadened to encompass all actions taken to undermine the authority of the government.

At the time of the Second World War

•    Pre-censorship was implemented during the Second World War in accordance with the Defense of India Rules.
•    The Press Emergency Act was amended to raise the sentence to five years in prison.
•    The Official Secrets Act was also changed to include a potential penalty of execution or transportation for disclosing information that could be used against us.
•    The Indian press remained unaffected by the multiple draconian laws, found ways to get around them to defend press freedom and civil freedoms, and ultimately emerged as the leaders of the national movement. 


The Indian press experienced difficulties under British control due to factors like illiteracy, colonial pressure, and persecution. Later on, though, it emerged as a crucial weapon in the war for liberation. Newspapers played a significant role in shaping and increasing national consciousness among Indians. The invention of printing papers led to a large-scale nationalist movement in India.

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