FREEDOM OF PRESS

Introduction

The printing press was brought to India by the portugese missionaries in 15th century.

Early Developments

From the beginning of the 19th century the politically conscious Indian had realized the importance of the free press. Bengal gazette was the first Indian newspaper in 1780.

Wellesley curtailed freedom of press in 1798 it was for Englishmen in India to prevent French from publishing anything that harmed the English

Press: A tool for the national movement

The later part of the 19th century didn’t involve mass movement and mobilization of the masses. It was limited to political education of the masses, formation and propagation of nationalist ideology. It was in this that the press became a chief instrument in arousing, mobilizing, training and consolidating nationalist public opinion.

The initial years of the congress were of heavy dependence on the press to propagate its resolutions, debates and meetings to the people. The congress didn’t have an organization for carrying out political work.

Role of the Press

Influence of the press extended beyond cities and towns and even beyond literate viewers. As even in rural areas the newspapers were being read by a person to ten others.

A local library became a center of political participation as it was read and the news items were discussed by all.

Newspapers thus had become political educators as well as tools of political participation.

Political controversies were conducted through the press. It also played an institutional role of opposition to the government.

As every act and policy of the government came to be heavily criticized in the press. Task of exposing colonial rule was done through it.

However doing all this was challenging as various laws and sections existed that punished even mild forms of dissent against the government. To circumvent these sections journalists used clever language and quotations from the British media in such a way that the reader would feel it was a critique to the government. Sarcasm, irony, mock seriousness were other forms of critique.

The national movement too defended the press whenever government tried to curtail its freedom. Freedom of press became integral part of the national movement. E.g. vernacular press act was passed by Lord Lytton to curb freedom of press of Indian language readers. This was due to fact that their readership went beyond the middle class. Draconian act provided for confiscation of press and was later repealed by Lord Ripon.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak - Leader of the Extremists

The most notable journalist activist was B. G. Tilak who founded Kesari [Marathi] and Maharatta [English] papers with the help of G. G. Agarkar. He was known as the Father of Indian Unrest.

He propagated anti British content using simple but direct language. In the year 1893 he started Ganesh festivals and in the year 1896 Shivaji festival to stimulate nationalism amongst young Maharashtrians.

He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for allegedly support the Chapekar brothers in their killing of Rand the official in charge of plague operations in pune.

Although Tilak had condemned the act as that of a fanatic he also critisized the government’s tactics against plague affected people. When he was tried he denied having any intention of preaching disaffection against the rulers.

Tilak became an all India hero after this episode and the tile of Lokmanya was given to him.

In 1908 when bomb attacks became common on the government. It again resorted to harsh measures against the press. At this time though Tilak condemned the attacks against individuals and the use of violence. But he held the government’s attitude responsible for it. For this article again Tilak was sentenced to 6 yrs in prison in Mandalay, Burma.

Chapter Review

Q1:The printing press was brought to India by the

  • British
  • Portuguese missionaries
  • dutch
  • French

 

Q2:was the first Indian newspaper in 1780.s

  • Mumbai darpan
  • sarita
  • Bengal gazette
  • Amar patrika

 

Q3:vernacular press act was passed by Lord

  • ripon
  • lytton
  • curzon
  • clive

 

Q4:Father of Indian Unrest.

  • Lala lajpat rai
  • BG Tilak
  • Bipinchandra Pal
  • J Nehru

 

Q5:title of Lokmanya was given to Tilak in aftermath of

 

  • His sentencing for criticsing the Government for handling of the plague outbreak
  • organizing ganesh festivals
  • starting home rule movement
  • becoming president of the congress