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Spectrum's A brief history of Moderrn India Development of Indian Press
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STRUGGLE BY EARLY NATIONALISTS TO SECURE PRESS FREEDOM Right from the early nineteenth century, defence of civil liberties, including the freedom of the press, had been high on nationalist agenda. As early as 1824, Raja Rammohan Roy had protested against a resolution restricting the freedom of the press. The early phase of nationalist movement from around 1870 to 1918 focussed more on political propaganda and education, formation and propagation of nationalist ideology and arousing, training, mobilisation and consolidation of public opinion, than on mass agitation or active mobilisation of masses through open meetings. For this purpose the press proved a crucial tool in the hands of the nationalists. The Indian National Congress in its early days relied solely on the press to propagate its resolutions and proceedings. Many newspapers emerged during these years under distinguished and fearless journalists. These included Hindu and Swadesamitran under G. Subramaniya Aiyar, The Bengalee under Surendranath Banerjee, Voice of India under Dadabhai Naoroji, Amrita Bazar Patrika under Sisir Kumar Ghosh and Motilal Ghosh, Indian Mirror under N.N. Sen, Kesari (in Marathi) and Maharatta (in English) under Balgangadhar Tilak, Sudharak under Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Hindustan and Advocate under G.P. Verma. Other main newspapers included, Tribune and Akbhar-i-ant in Punjab, Gujarati, Indu Prakash, Dhyan Prakash and Kal in Bombay and Som Prakash, Banganivasi and Sadharani in Bengal.
STRUGGLE BY EARLY NATIONALISTS TO SECURE PRESS FREEDOM These newspapers were not established as profit-making business ventures but were seen as rendering national and public service. In fact, these newspapers had a wide reach and they stimulated a library movement. Their impact was not limited to cities and towns; these newspapers reached the remote villages, where each news item and editorial would be read and discussed thoroughly in the 'local libraries' which would gather around a single newspaper. In this way, these libraries served the purpose of not only political education but also of political participation. In these newspapers, government acts and policies were put to critical scrutiny. They acted as an institution of opposition to the Government. The Government on its part had enacted many strident laws, such as Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code which provided that anyone trying to cause disaffection against the British Government in India was to be transported for life or for any term or imprisoned upto three years. But the nationalist-minded journalists had evolved many clever strategies to subvert these legal hurdles. For instance, writings hostile to the Government used to be prefaced with sentiments of loyalty to the Government or critical writings of socialists or Irish nationalists from newspapers in England used to be quoted. This was a difficult task which required an intelligent mix of simplicity with subtlety. The national movement, from its very beginning, stood for the freedom of press. The Indian newspapers became highly critical of Lord Lytton's administration especially regarding its inhuman treatment to victims of the famine of 1876-77. The Government struck back with the Vernacular Press Act, 1878.
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