Development of Press in India – Censorship of Press Act and John Adams Press Regulation

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The process of development of press in India can only be partially attributed to the British government. Although it is credited with the introduction of the press in India, which was independent, the growth of journalism and the Indian press was initially hindered by the British government to a large extent. The inclusion of the press was done by the British government during the colonial period with the intention of smooth passage of information. Later, the development of the press in India contributed immensely to the freedom struggle against the Britishers.

Despite the introduction of journalism and the press, hard efforts were made by the British to curb the development of press in India at the time. This was done to prevent the spread of patriotic and nationalist opinions of the Indians. Yet, it became one of the most important mediums to spread the message of patriotism and enhance the struggle for independence. The development of Press in India became an essential tool in the freedom movements of India.

Development of Press in India

The history of the development of press in India started with the creation of a newspaper called The Bengal Gazette which was started by James Augustus Hickey in 1780. The paper was also known as the Calcutta General Advertiser. The credit for the origin of the Indian press in the colonial period, therefore, goes to James Hicky for sowing the seed of journalism in India.

The Bengal Gazette was the first newspaper ever published, but its operations were stopped soon in 1872. The reason behind it was the aggressive condemnation of the East India Company through its articles. The role of the press in the freedom struggle was considered very important.

  • After the Bengal Gazette was stopped from publishing, many other newspapers came into existence, such as the Calcutta Chronicle, the Bengal Journal, the Bombay Herald, and the Madras Courier.
  • Seeing the introduction of so many newspapers, the East India Company expressed its concern regarding the news of their unfair practices in India.
  • To prevent the information of these newspapers from reaching London, the East India Company sought to impose restrictions on the publication of all the newspapers and journals.

Development of Press During British Rule

To prevent the growth and development of the press in Indiathe British government decided to pass certain acts and regulations. The intention behind these acts was to stop the spread of specifically nationalist views and sentiments through these newspapers.

The East India Company wanted to prohibit the Indians from coming together and launching a revolt against the government. Here are some important acts and regulations that were passed during British rule:-

  • Censorship of Press Act
  • Licensing Regulation Ordinance
  • Press Act or the Metcalfe Act
  • Licensing Act
  • Vernacular Press Act
  • Registration Act
  • Indian Press Act
  • Newspaper Act

Censorship of Press Act 1799

The first act passed in the direction of imposing restrictions on the Indian press was the Censorship of Press Act in 1799. It was passed by Richard Wellesley, who was the Governor- General of India at the time.

  • The Censorship of Press Act was passed in order to restrict the French people from spreading any news that was against the British government.
  • It also imposed a restriction on all the newspapers and journals that would not be published without first getting approval from the British government.
  • All the magazines, journals, pamphlets, books, and newspapers were covered under this act after a modification in 1807.
  • The limitations were made to be easier after Francis Hastings occupied the chair in the year 1818.

Licensing Regulation Act 1823 and John Adams Press Regulation

The next act or ordinance passed was the Licensing Regulation Act by John Adams. This ordinance was passed in 1823 by Adams, who was the Governor-General then. This act was primarily focused on the Indian newspapers or those that were at least edited by Indians.

  • According to the Licensing Regulation, if any newspaper were published without a license, it would be considered a serious criminal violation.
  • All the Indian newspapers came under the radar.
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy decided to stop the publication of Mirat-ul-Akhbar which was a Persian journal.
  • The journal was started by Roy in 1822.
  • He also launched a revolt against the British government in 1824.

Metcalfe Act or Press Act 1835

The Press Act or the Metcalfe Act came to be known as the liberator of the press. The act revoked the License Regulations of 1823. It enabled the press to be more liberal, which contributed to the development of press in India to a great extent.

The main requirement of the Metcalfe Act was that the printer of the publisher of the newspaper must provide all details regarding the place of publication. If the instructions are not followed, the newspaper shall be stopped from publishing.

Licensing Act 1857

Another act was passed after the Revolt of 1857, called the Licensing Act. The act was passed by Canning, the Governor-General of India at the time. This act passed strict limitations on the press. Any new publications were supposed to be published or printed only with the permission of the Government.

Vernacular Press Act 1878

An act was passed by Lytton, who was the then Viceroy of India. This act was passed towards controlling the vernacular press in a better way. The Vernacular Press Act was introduced to limit the freedom of newspapers published in local Indian languages. It happened as a result of the differences between the European population and the Indian population post the Revolt of 1857.

Growth of Press in India

The growth of Press in India was a slow process. The introduction of Press and journalism was made by James Hickey, who published the first newspaper in India. Gradually the press became a medium of communication for the Indian freedom fighters who wanted to spread nationalist and patriotic sentiments among the Indian people.

The growth of press in India gradually resulted in becoming a medium where the British government and its policies could be criticized. This entire process actually showed the importance and role of media in a democracy.

Development of Press in India UPSC

The development of Press in India was an important event in the history of the nation. It showed how the media and journalism could play a significant role in spreading the required message and information among the people. It had the power to generate a mass uprising and even initiate revolts and protests. Therefore, it is a very important topic that should not be missed while preparing for the exam. It forms a very important part of the entire UPSC syllabus.

Sample Question: Take into consideration the following statements and pick the right option. [1] French is attributed to establishing the press in India [2] The modern Indian Press was initiated in 1766 with the printing of a newspaper by William Bolts.

Which of the following statements is correct? [A] Only 2 [B] Only 1 [C] Both 1 and 2 [D] Neither 1 nor 2.

Answer: (Option A) Only 2

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