Chapter 12: FREEDOM OF PRESS
printing press was brought to India by the portugese
missionaries in 15th century.
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.
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
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
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
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.
local library became a center of political participation
as it was read and the news items were discussed by all.
thus had become political educators as well as tools of
controversies were conducted through the press. It also
played an institutional role of opposition to the
every act and policy of the government came to be heavily
criticized in the press. Task of exposing colonial rule
was done through it.
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.
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and was later repealed by Lord Ripon.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
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.
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.
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.
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.
became an all India hero after this episode and the tile
of Lokmanya was given to him.
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,
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