Development of Press in India: Here Is All You Need to Know 

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The Indian subcontinent faced numerous challenges, hardships, brutality, and struggles during British rule. Additional factors such as illiteracy among the general public further fueled the difficulties faced by the press under colonial pressure. During those years, the press underwent major transformations which overall reflected the socio-political evolution of the country. During its inception, the press was recognized as a medium to spread political propaganda and awareness among the general public. Later on, the development of press in India made a major contribution to the Indian freedom struggle. 

Origin of the Press in India 

  • Interestingly, the press is as old as the existence of humans but in different forms and manners.
  • Earlier, it was all about the writings on the walls and on stones.
  • Then came Emperor Ashoka’s condemnation of the loss of human life and violence during the Kalinga war which is still available on a stone inscription. 
Image source: Reddit
  • Later on, paper and writing materials were made available which fostered the development of press in India. 
  • According to many historians, newsletters were the earliest form of newspaper publication. 

Censorship and Regulations 

  • The East India Company first introduced censorship in the Indian state of Madras in 1795. 
  • It required The Madras Gazette to submit for inspection prior to its publication. 
  • Similarly, the government implemented numerous other restrictions to limit the freedom and powers of the press. For instance, the Adams regulations of 1818 allowed certain freedom to the publications if they agreed to keep the content as per the government’s requirements. 
  • The first press ordinance was established in 1823. It came with numerous heavy regulations and penalties or fines for editors who indulged in infringement. 

Overview of the Press During British Rule 

  • The first printing press of India was established in Bombay in 1674. It was followed by the second one in Madras (1772) and the third printing press in Calcutta (1779). 
  • The history of the press in India began with the publication of the Bengal Gazette. It was started by James Augustus Hickey in the year 1780.
  • This famous paper later came to be known as the Calcutta General Advertiser. 
  • The Bengal Gazette was the first newspaper ever published in India. However, its publications were soon banned in 1872 due to its stand against the East India Company. 
  • After it ceased, numerous other lesser-known publications came to exist. Examples include the Bengal Journal, the Madras Courier, the Calcutta Chronicle, the Bombay Herald, and so on.  
  • Other influential newspapers that emerged during this period include Swadesamitran, The Hindu, Sudharak, Amrit Bazar Patrika, and so on.  
Source: Learn Mass Communication

Also Read: Paika Rebellion 1817: UPSC Notes, Causes and Consequences

Government Statutes for Press 

To hamper the development of press in India, the British government passed numerous acts and regulations. The primary intention behind such major political acts was to limit the power of the press, restrict its features, and suppress the national sentiments among people. 

Censorship Press Act, 1799

  • The Censorship Press Act was introduced in 1799 by Lord Wellesley.
  • It was among the initial efforts to impose restrictions on the Indian press. 
  • The primary aim of this act was to prevent French citizens of the country from spreading anything against the British government. 
  • It prohibited newspapers and journals from printing anything without the approval of the British government. 
  • After introducing a modification in 1807, all magazines and books were included under the purview of the act. 

Licensing Regulation Act, 1823 

  • This act was introduced by John Adams in 1823 who was the then Governor-General of India. 
  • According to this act, any newspaper published against the disapproval of the British government would be considered a criminal violation. 
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy made numerous efforts to revolt against the British government in 1824 but couldn’t achieve the desired results.

Metcalfe Act, 1835

  • The Metcalfe Act of 1835 is also known as the Press Act.
  • It later came to be known as the liberator of the press. 
  • This prominent act in Indian history revoked the License Regulations Act of 1823. 
  • To foster the growth and development of press in India, the Metcalfe Act gave more liberty to the press. 
  • It required the printer of the newspaper to provide all the details about the place of publication. 
  • If the publisher fails to follow the said instructions, the government will ultimately stop the newspaper publishing. 

Also Read: Arrival of the East India Company and Its Expansion

Licensing Act, 1857

  • The Licensing Act was passed after the famous Revolt of 1857.
  • It was passed by Lord Canning, the then Governor-General of India. 
  • It imposed numerous rigid limitations on the Indian press and allowed printing only with the approval of the government.

The Registration Act, 1867

  • The Registration Act was introduced in 1867.
  • According to its regulations, it was mandatory to submit a copy of the latest publication within the first month of its release. 

Vernacular Press Act, 1878

  • The Vernacular Press Act was passed in 1878 by Lord Lytton, the Viceroy of India. 
  • The primary aim of this new act was to suppress the publishing of newspapers in local Indian languages. 
  • It also empowered government officials to confiscate any printed material against the British government and force the publisher or printer to print only a certain kind of content. 
  • Many people were of the opinion that the act took place as a direct result of the differences between the Indian and European populations. 

Indian Press Act, 1910

  • The Indian Press Act came into force somewhere in 1910.
  • It was implemented to restrict the emerging feeling of nationalism in the Indian freedom struggle. 
  • According to this act, the government could demand a security deposit of Rs 500 – Rs 2000 which could be later fortified. 
  • Similarly, the publishing house could be banned if anything objectionable was being printed by the press. 

Also Read: What was thе Ralеigh Commission?

Press Regulating Act, 1942

  • According to this act, registration of journalists was compulsory.
  • Publications were restricted from publishing anything related to acts of sabotage and civil disturbances. 

List of Newspapers in India 

Below we have listed the features of the most prominent and earliest newspapers in India. 

Newspaper Features 
Bengal Gazette (1780)Started by James Augustus Hickey.The first newspaper in India. 
Sambad Kaumudi (1821)It was started by Raja Rammohan Roy.It was a Bengali weekly.The Sambad Kaumudi raised issues such as the campaign against Sati.
Mirat-ul-Akhbar (1822)It was started by Raja Rammohan Roy.It was India’s first Persian weekly.
Bombay Samachar (1822)It was founded by Fardoonji Murazban.It was also the oldest vernacular newspaper. 
Rast Goftar (1851)It was also known as the Truth Teller.It was founded by Dadabhai Naoroji.  
Somaprakash (1858)It was started by Dwarakanath Vidaybhusan.It was a weekly newspaper. 
Indian Mirror (1861)It was founded by Manmohan Ghose. Later on, Keshab Chandra Sen turned Indian Mirror into a daily. 
The Hindu (1878)The Hindu was founded by G. Subramaniya Iyer. 
Swadesamitran (1882)It was a Tamil newspaper launched in the Indian state of Madras.It was founded by G. Subramania Iyer.Swadesamitran was considered the sister of The Hindu.

Role of the Press in the Indian National Movement 

During the Indian freedom struggle, the press became a chief instrument. Publishers used this medium and numerous efforts were made to spread awareness about government policies, social ideas, political reforms, and so on.

  • The nation witnessed the publication of a large number of newspapers, especially during the latter half of the 19th century.
  • New policies of the British government were openly criticized.
  • Honest opinions were being shared about the unjust and oppressive rule of the government. 
  • Citizens of India were asked to unite against the British government and work towards the national welfare. 
  • Ideas such as self-government and democracy were put forward which made the government hostile towards the development of press in India. 
  • Newspapers also helped Indian nationalist leaders to openly discourage years-old practices such as sati and child marriage. 


Who is the father of the press in India?

James Augustus Hicky is known as the father of the press in India.

Who first introduced the press in India?

Press in India was first introduced by the Portuguese in 1550. 

Who was the first chairman of the First Press Council of India?

Justice J.R. Mudholkar was appointed as the first chairman of the First Press Council of India (PCI). 

This blog was all about the development of Press in India. If you want to read more such informative General Knowledge blogs, stay tuned with our dedicated page on Indian History

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