Freedom of the press is protected under Indian Constitution, under Article
19(1)(a) which talks about Freedom of speech and expression. The press is
considered as one of the essential features of Freedom of speech and expression,
and freedom for press is a necessary condition for the functioning of Democracy.
However, this freedom of press has evolved from years to years.
India has a diverse media landscape, with a large number of newspapers,
journals, magazine, television channels and online news portals. The media is
free to report on various topics like politics, social issues, and economic
development. However, there are certain instance of censorship and restrictions
on media in India, particularly during the times of emergency or political
unrest. In the Pre-independence Era, there are also certain restriction of Press
and media houses in India. The government in India has power to regulate the
media through various law, such as Press and Registration of Books Act, which
requires newspapers to register
with the government. The government can also use other laws, such as the
Official Secrets Act and sedition law, to restrict the media's freedom in
In the recent times, there has been concern about the increasing influence of
the government on the media, particularly through the use of advertising and
other form of financial incentives. There is also concern related to the safety
of journalist, with several cases of violence reported against the journalists
in different parts of the country. Despite all these challenges, the media in
India continues to play an important role in shaping public opinion and holding
those in power accountable. The freedom of the press remains a cornerstone of
India's democracy, and efforts are being made to protect and strengthen this
Press and Media in early 19th Century
The history of Media and Press be traced long back from the East India Company
reign in the year 1799, when Lord Wellesley promulgated The Press Regulations1,
which the beginning of pre-censorship on the newly evolved newspaper printing
industry. However, that pre censorship was been dispensed by Lord Hastings in
1818. In 1823, licensing regulations were publicized to which using or starting
press without licensing was a penal offense.
In 1835 "The
Press act also referred as Metcalfe Act
" was introduced, this act requiresthe
publisher or printer to give clear and to the point explanation of each and
In 1857, the government passed "The Gagging act
2", which empowers the government
to prohibit the circulation of any newspaper, books, journals, or other printed
material, which in any ways threatened or weakened the governments authority.
Licensing3 was reinstated by Lord Canning in 1857. In 1860 Indian Penal Code (IPC)
was introduced as general law which laid down offences of defamation and
The year of 1867 was significant for media legislation as "The Press and
Registration of Books act
" was introduced, which replaced the Press
act/Metcalfe's act. The act was to provide controlling of printing press and
newspaper in India and Certification and protection of book copies.
The act also
mentioned that every book/newspaper was required to have the name of publisher
and printer and the place of the publication and a copy of the publication need
to be submitted to the local government authority within one month of
publication for review.
In 1878, "The Vernacular Press Act
" was introduced which gives more power to
government to put down the publications which are seditious and imposed punitive
sanctions on publishers and printers. In 1898 government has enacted many
stringent laws, such as Section 124A of Indian Penal Code which say that anyone
trying to cause disaffection against the British government shall be punished.
In 1898, government amended Section 124A and added another Section 153A which
made contempt of the Government of India and to create hatred among different
classes as a criminal offence. In 1908, The Newspaper (Incitement to offences)
Act was enacted, which empowered magistrates to confiscate press property which
objectionable material likely to incitement to acts of violence.
In 1910, The Indian Press Act has introduced which has some features of
Vernacular Press Act, the act demands for the demand of security at registration
from the publisher/printer and forfeit if it was found offending newspaper. The
printer/publisher also require to submit two copies of each issue to local
government for review
In 1911, The Defence of India Act, was introduced to
impose restriction on press, act was also used for was as well as political
so as to carry out the policy of the Indian government in regard to repression
of political agitation or free public criticism of its normal acts and methods
of administration in India4.
In March 1930, Gandhiji started Salt Satyagraha due to which the established
peace between press and government for nine years was snapped. The Indian Press
(Emergency Powers) Act, 1931 gave powers to governments to suppress the
propaganda of Civil disobedience Movement. In 1939, The Government of India
under The Defence of India Act made amendments to The Press Emergency Act and
The Official Secrets Act. After amendment in Secrets act it provide penalty of
death or transportation for the publication of secret information, which is
likely to use by the enemies.
After the adoption of the Constitution in January 1950 certain action was taken
against the certain newspaper, which successfully appealed to High court and
Supreme court that overruled the action of executive on ground that they were
ultra vires of Article 29(2) of The Indian Constitution. However, the
constitution of India does not provide any specific Article which is dedicate to
the Freedom of press and media. Under Article 19(1)(a) which talks about Freedom
of Speech and Expression, is the one also ensures the Freedom of Mass Media and
Development made in Press and Media Post-Independence:
India is a country with a vibrant media landscape, but freedom of the press has
been a subject of concern in years. There have been several significant
developments in this regard. The Indian Constitution, adopted in 1950,
guarantees freedom of speech and expression, including freedom of the press.
In the early years after independence, the Indian press was marked by a strong
sense of idealism and a commitment to democratic values. The press was
instrumental in advocating for the rights of marginalized communities, such as
Dalits (formerly known as "untouchables
") and women. The press also played a
crucial role in shaping public opinion on key issues, such as land reform,
education, and healthcare. However, in the 1970s, India underwent a period of
authoritarian rule under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and the press faced
The government imposed censorship on the media, and
journalists were subject to intimidation and violence. The press fought back,
with many journalists facing imprisonment
and harassment, but ultimately, the government's efforts to control the media
were largely unsuccessful.
In the decades since, India's press has continued to thrive, with hundreds of
newspapers, magazines, and television channels operating in the country. The
Indian media has been at the forefront of reporting on critical issues such as
corruption, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation. The press has
also played a critical role in exposing the failures of the government's
policies and programs, and holding politicians and officials accountable for
their actions. This has been a significant step in protecting the freedom of the
press in India.
In 1966, the Press Council of India was established as a statutory body to
promote and maintain the standards of the press, to ensure the freedom of the
press and to protect the rights of journalists. Over the years, Indian courts
have delivered several landmark judgments related to freedom of the press,
including the 1975 case of Indian Express Newspapers v. Union of India
affirmed the freedom of the press as a part of the right to freedom of speech
and expression. India has a diverse media landscape, with a range of newspapers,
magazines, television channels, and online news platforms, catering to different
languages and regions.
This has allowed for a plurality of voices and
perspectives in the media. Despite the protections provided by the Constitution
and the Press Council of India, there have been challenges and controversies
related to the freedom of the press in India. These have included instances of
censorship, attacks on journalists, and restrictions on reporting in conflict
Overall, the developments in freedom of the press in India since Independence
have been mixed, with some significant progress and challenges. However, the
vibrant and diverse media landscape in India continues to play a critical role
in upholding democratic values and holding those in power accountable.
Currently according to the 2022 stats, India ranked 150 out of 180 countries in
the World Press Freedom Index, released by Reporters Without Borders.
This was a
drop from the 140th position it held in 20196.
Freedom of Press and Media has played a crucial role in India's political and
social development since the country gained independence from British colonial
rule in 1947. The Indian press has been instrumental in advocating for the
rights of marginalized communities, exposing corruption, and holding the
government accountable for its actions.
However, the Indian press has also faced significant challenges over the years,
including censorship, government pressure, threats of violence from extremist
groups, and economic pressures. Despite these challenges, the Indian media has
remained resilient, and the commitment of journalists and civil society groups
to press freedom has remained strong.
Today, India's press remains a vital component of the country's democracy,
providing a platform for diverse voices and opinions, and shaping public opinion
on critical issues. As India continues to undergo rapid social and economic
changes, the role of a free press in promoting democratic values and ensuring
government accountability is likely to become even more critical in the years to
- Censorship of Press Act, 1799 enacted anticipating French invasion of India.
- Also known as the Licensing Act, 1857. This was the common name given for two acts of Parliament passed in 1817, also known as the Grenville and Pitt Bills. The specific Acts themselves were the Treason Act 1817 and the Seditious Meetings Act 1817.
- Licensing Act, 1857 � this Act imposed licensing restriction & the right to stop publication & circulation of book, newspaper or printed matter reserved with the government.
- Chaudburi Reba, "The Story of Indian Press", The Economic Weekly, Published 1955
- 1985) 2 SCR 287
- Published on- May 05, 2022, The Hindu
- Article- Press Freedom in India: A Legal Study, Published by- Rahesha Sehgal and Udit Malik
- Journal- Freedom of the Press, Published by- Saumya Krishnakumar
- Article- A study on Freedom of Press in India: With reference to Article 19, Published by B. Mugundhan and C. Renuga