Freedom of Press

  • On 29th January 1780, the Hickey’s Bengal Gazette or the Calcutta General Advertizer was published. It was the first English newspaper to be printed in the Indian sub-continent.
  • The press was the chief instrument of forming a nationalist ideology
  • The resolutions and proceedings of the Congress were propagated through press. Trivia: nearly one third of the founding fathers of congress in 1885 were journalists.

 

  • Main news papers and editors

 

    • The Hindu and Swadesamitran: G Subramaniya Iyer
    • Kesari and Mahratta: BG Tilak
    • Bengalee: S N Banerjea
    • Amrita Bazar Patrika: Sisir Kumar Ghosh and Motilal Ghosh
    • Sudharak: GK Gokhale
    • Indian Mirror: N N Sen
    • Voice of India: Dadabhai Naoroji
    • Hindustani and Advocate: GP Varma
    • Tribune and Akhbar-i-Am in Punjab
    • Indu Prakash, Dnyan Prakahs, Kal and Gujarati in Bombay
    • Som Prakash, Banganivasi and Sadharani in Bengal

 

  • Newspaper was not confined to the literates. It would reach the villages and would be read by a reader to tens of others.
  • Reading and discussing newspaper became a form of political participation.
  • Nearly all the major political controversies of the day were conducted through the Press.
  • ‘Oppose, oppose, oppose’ was the motto of the Indian press.
  • The section 124A of the IPC was such as to punish a person who evoked feelings of disaffection to the government.
  • The Indian journalists remained outside 124A by adopting methods such as quoting the socialist and anti-imperialist newspapers of England or letters from radical British citizens
  • The increasing influence of the newspapers led the government to pass the Vernacular Press Act of 1978, directed only against Indian language newspapers.
    • It was passed very secretively
    • The act provided for the confiscation of the printing press, paper and other materials of a newspaper if the government believed that it was publishing seditious materials and had flouted an official warning.
    • Due to the agitations, it was repealed in 1881 by Lord Ripon.
  • SN Banerjee was the first Indian to go to jail in performance of his duty as a journalist.

 

B G Tilak

 

  • The man who is most frequently associated with the struggle for the freedom of Press during the nationalist movement is Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  • In 1881, along with G G Agarkar, he founded the newspapers Kesari and Mahratta.
  • In 1893, he started the practice of using the traditional religious Ganapati festival to propagate nationalist ideas through patriotic songs and speeches.
  • In 1896, he started the Shivaji festival to stimulate nationalism among young Maharashtrians.
  • He brought peasants and farmers into the national movement.
  • He organized a no-tax campaign in Maharashtra in 1896-97
  • Plague in Poona in 1897.
  • Popular resentment against the official plague measures resulted in the assassination of Rand, the Chairman of the Plague Committee in Poona, and Lt. Ayerst by the Chaphekar brothers on 27 June 1898.
  • Since 1894, anger had been rising against the government due to the tariff, currency and famine policy.
  • Tilak was arrested and sentenced to 18 month rigorous imprisonment in 1897. This led to country wide protests and Tilak was given the title of Lokmanya.
  • Tilak was again arrested and tried on 24 June 1908 on the charge of sedition under article 124A. He was sentenced to 6 years of transportation. This led to nationwide protests and closing down of markets for a week. Later, in 1922 Gandhi was tried on the same act and he said that he is proud to be associated with Tilak’s name.

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