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    Freedom Of Press in India: Role in Democracy

    History Of Press

    Every democracy needs Press/Media as the fourth pillar along with these three pillars i.e. judiciary, executive and legislative. The Press is the fourth pillar of our constitution and has a very glorious past in Indian history. Other mass media components like radio and television have comparatively low importance than the press. It is the oldest and most enduring form that even has a major role in the great revolution of independence. 

    Newspaper and periodicals have been the path of modernization and democratization of developing India. 

    There can’t be any real democracy without a press and it’s worth mentioning that only an independent press can perform all its expected functions to raise issues affecting democracy, social system, economy, and personal issues.

    Printing Machines in the 18th Century.

    This journey starts with printing machines and presses in the 18th century, though the first printing machine was set up in Goa in 1556 and in continuance were set up in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras and some periodicals like famous ‘Bengal Gazette’ whose original name was ‘Calcutta general advertiser’ and came in 1780 but independence struggle changed it a lot, even its name. After that numerous articles were launched that includes:

    • Madras Gazette in1795,
    • Telegraph in 1796 
    • Bengal Hurricane in 1798

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    Under the liberal policy of Governor-General of India, Lord Bentinck gave the boost to the publication of newspapers and periodicals that time in native languages, that’s something which changed the scenario nationwide.

    The ‘Kesari’, a paper published in 1880 in Bombay province by Shri Bal Gangadhar Tilak and many similar publications contributed a lot to the growth of Indian nationalism and constitutional development together with Bombay, Madras, Sindh i.e. Punjab and United provinces I.e. Uttar Pradesh, also have a huge contribution in National awakening and modernization in Northern and Eastern belts of India. 

    All the current issues that time which includes demands by Indian National Congress the Hindu Mahasabha and The All India Muslim League covered and highlighted by various English newspapers and periodicals, 

    For example:- the Nagpur times, the Hindustan standard published between the 1930s to 1950s. The major issues of nationalist and individual Liberty, the socio-religious movements that all demanding the introduction of democratic institutions.

    Vernacular Press Act

    The major historical event was the beginning of vernacular press in the 19th century by a Christian missionary, Shri JC Marshman and it too started a monthly magazine and he was the first to start, “Big darshan”, in the Bengali language.

    Role of Literacy

    Literacy has a  great role in increasing the readers in British India and also in independent India as growing literacy has a very positive impact on publications that’s why India is one of the few countries with the largest newspaper readers in the world.

    “Media”, that’s another common name of the press in modern India and in India press is mostly a self-regulated body; though the press is a private entity but has a great public role.

    Development in Press after Independence

    Our country has so many bodies for the regulation of media and press in the nation such as The Press Council of India, which is a statutory body also one self-regulating and organizing authority is the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, N.B.S.A., issues many guidelines and provisions for television and many other mass media mediums. Recently, former justice of the supreme court Mr. M. Katju, the chairman of the Press Council of India had argued that T.V. and radio need to be bought within the scope of the press council of India or any other similar regulatory body.

    The Press Council Of India was established under the Press Council Of India Act of 1978. Its major purpose is to preserve the freedom of the press in India and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.

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    Various Statutes for Regulation of Mass Media in India

    1. Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) under Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
    2. The Right to Information Act, 2005
    3. Regulation of the Internet under IT Rules 2011
    4. Draft of Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2006 was introduced to seek a mandatory license for broadcasting any television or radio channel or program.
    5. The Press Act of 1910, introduced in British India.
    6. The Newspaper (Prices and Pages) Act, 1956
    7. State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005
    8. The Dramatic Performances Act, 1876 (Relevant Provisions)
    9. The Cine-workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1981.
    10. The Quality of Service of Broadband Service Regulations, 2006
    11. The International Telecommunication Access to Essential Facilities at Cable Landing Stations Regulations, 2007
    12. The Press and Registration Appellate Board (Practice and Procedure) 1961
    13. Registration of Newspapers (Central) Rules, 1956.
    14. The Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867.
    15. The Central Information Commission (Management) Regulations, 2007
    16. The Press Council Rules, 1979
    17. The Press Council (Procedure for Conduct of Meetings and Business) Regulations, 1979
    18. The Telecommunication Consumers Education and Protection Fund Regulations, 2007
    19. Registration of Newspapers (Central) Rules, 1956
    20. The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954
    21. The Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983
    22. The Sports Broadcast Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Rules, 2007
    23. Domestic Leased Circuits Regulations, 2007
    24. The Direct to Home Broadcasting Services (Standards of Quality of Service and Redressal of Grievances) Regulations, 2007

    There are more than 70 such provisions for the regulation of the Press. It doesn’t mean in any way that by these many laws, we are taking away the freedom of Press. The proper management and regulation are very necessary as well. 

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    Freedom of Press Under Constitution

    The Right to Freedom of Press is inherent under Freedom of Speech provided under Article 19 of the Indian constitution. This provision in our constitution is derived from the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the U.S.A. So, we derive this principle from American Institutions.

    The Apex court has a more elaborated view on the same in the famous case of Sakal Papers Vs. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 305, that freedom of Press is included in Freedom of Speech and Expression (FOSE).

    Also explained in the case of Brij Bhushan Vs. State of Delhi AIR 1950 SC 129 that there is no need to separately mention the Freedom of Press under Article 19 Clause 1 (a). In all these judgements, the Supreme court also warned that this freedom in no way should harm the Sovereignty, Integrity, and Security of our nation and put a restriction also under Article 19 Clause 2.

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