DNA Special: Evolution of Indian media from pre-Independent era to present times
Journalism is one of the oldest professions in the world. Even today, when there needs to be some kind of change in society, there is no other weapon more effective than journalism. Monday was National Press Day, so we will try to understand that over time the edge of this weapon has been blunted, intensified, or the weapon is now being used by different people according to its own convenience. The Press Council of India was established on this day in 1966 and this is why this day is celebrated as National Press Day. Press Council of India monitors the functioning of the print media.
India is one of those few countries in the world, where the media has been present for thousands of years. The remains of the Indus Valley Civilization are witness to the fact that the words were developed in India about 4,000 years ago, and it later became a medium of communication. The dialogue between people through words in India, which started thousands of years ago, has turned into the largest media market in the world today.
More than 1 lakh newspapers and magazines are currently published in India. In India, more than 17 thousand newspapers are published every day in different languages. And 10 crore copies of them are printed every day. India is the largest newspaper market in the world. The number of channels showing 24-hour News in India is more than 400. And these are also the highest in the world. India with 56 crore social media users is the second-largest market in the world, right behind China.
This basically means Indians are always surrounded by some or the other means of information.
Speaking of modern India, the first newspaper to be printed in India was called Gazette Bengal, which was published by an Englishman, James Augustus Hicky in the year 1780. This was followed by the publication of newspapers like The India, The Calcutta Gazette, The Madras Gazette Courier and Bombay Herald in the coming years. But after the first freedom struggle of 1857, the number of newspapers that appeared in different languages of India continued to grow. At the time of this freedom struggle, the media expansion in India was not so much that its news could reach the corners of the country through newspapers. But some UK newspapers had published detailed reports on this first war of independence. However, the news was first delivered to Bombay via Telegraph and then transported to London and it used to take several weeks.
The freedom struggle started on 10 May 1857, but the news about it appeared on June 13 in a British newspaper The Illustrated London News. Initially, the British newspapers were giving very little space to the reports of the freedom struggle. But gradually, the news started coming to the front page of the newspapers there.
On July 18, 1857, a very lengthy article featured on the news in the Illustrated Times, a UK newspaper. On the one hand, after the revolt of 1857 as the number of newspapers being published by Indians began to rise, the British government started applying censorship to these newspapers.
In 1859, when the farmers of Bengal agitated against indigo cultivation, many local language newspapers reported on it, but the British government began to tighten up against these newspapers. And by enacting new laws, local language newspapers began to be pressured and they were told that they must hand over a copy of it to the British authorities before publishing anything.
Under the Press Act, which was enacted in 1910, about 1,000 newspapers were processed, 500 newspapers were banned separately and several newspaper editors were jailed for sedition.
In 1917, Mahatma Gandhi started the Satyagraha movement in India. The newspapers in India prominently featured it and the people of the country began to wake up to freedom. The British Government did not like it and after some time the Press Emergency Act of 1931 was implemented.
In 1939, when the Second World War began and Britain also pulled India into the war, the newspapers started criticising it, and the British government became tough on India’s newspapers once again. Reports from abroad began to be filtered, in November 1939, when prisoners in jails across the country went on hunger strike, newspapers were asked not to print the news.
Despite the strictness of the restrictions, India’s newspapers did not stop printing news about the war of independence, Mahatma Gandhi’s speeches were prominently featured, movements like Dandi March and Quit India found a sizeable place in newspapers, there was also wide-scale reporting on the death trial of revolutionary Bhagat Singh and reports of the assassination of Shaheed Chandrasekhar Azad.
However, when the British government was very strict and prevented newspapers from reporting the Quit India Movement of 1942, the All-India Editors ‘ Conference assured the British government that they would refrain from printing its news. Nevertheless, the work of providing information to people was not stopped, reports of the movement were heard through confidential radio messages, and many newspapers started the Under Ground Publications.
In 1946, when the interim government was established in India and Partition began to be finalised, the restrictions on the media were reduced. But then there was a fight between the Hindu press and the Muslim press, that is, the Indian media was one by the time they fought the British. But as soon as the British announced their leave of India, the press began to be divided on the basis of religion.
Then came the moment for which the people of India, the leaders and the media had fought a long battle against the British government, that is, the moment of independence. The first page of almost all the newspapers in India had news related to freedom.
While some of Pakistan’s major newspapers did not publish the news of independence on August 15, the newspaper The Civil and Gazette Military, which appeared in Lahore, only published reports of riots, partitions and bloodshed.
When India became independent, there were 214 daily newspapers in India. Since independence, as India began to change, the way the media began to work also began to change. It started with the disclosures of corruption prevailing in the government. In 1948, India’s High Commissioner to Britain VK Krishna Menon signed a deal to buy some old Jeeps for the army for Rs 80 lakh but had not taken the government’s permission for the same. As these Jeeps were purchased, the army would have received new trains from countries like the US and Canada, the media reported the scam on a large scale, and perhaps for the first time, the people of independent India were confronted with words such as a scam. The question also arose over the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, as VK Menon was close to him. Despite criticism by the opposition and the media, Nehru made Menon a part of his ministerial board and he was also made the defence minister of the country.
Then, in 1962, India had a war with China and for the first time in Independent India. Then, in the year 1965, India had a war with Pakistan, most foreign and Pakistani newspapers were publishing false and half-baked reports of Pakistan’s victory over India, so India’s newspapers put the truth before the world. This was perhaps the first such incident in Independent India, on which foreign media was publishing news under propaganda.
Then came the war of 1971, followed by the creation of Bangladesh.
At the midnight on June 25, 1975, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did something that was unimaginable – she imposed an Emergency in India and also snatched away the freedom of the press.
During the Emergency, 3,801 newspapers were confiscated, 327 journalists were jailed under MISA law and government advertisements were discontinued in 290 newspapers.
Telephones and other facilities of several foreign news agencies, including Reuters, were exhausted. The recognition of 51 foreign journalists was taken away and 29 foreign journalists were denied entry into India.
In that era, a group of editors had succumbed to the government. 47 editors from Delhi expressed their faith in all the steps taken by Indira Gandhi on July 9, 1975, even these editors had justified the censorship imposed on newspapers.
The statement of BJP leader LK Advani about such editors is very famous when he said that when he was asked to bend, he was crawling. Some newspapers that opposed the Emergency, left the editorial page empty as a mark of protest.
Just after Independence, the Indian media was divided into two parts based on ideology and that is what exactly happened during and after the Emergency.
The journalists who were with the government later turned into court journalists, Many of them were honoured with the Padma Shri or even a Rajya Sabha ticket. Such editors compromised the principles of journalism, and they began to be showered with prizes. By then, only newspapers and radio under the government dispersed information to the people of the country and then there was Doordarshan, which was also under the government, that would give the news to the people.
In the 90s, there were the Bofors scandal, the stock market and the fodder scam and most of these scams were also reported through newspapers. But soon the monopoly over the news by a handful of newspapers was about to end. After two decades of the Emergency, private satellite channels made an entry and Zee News was India’s first private channel, founded in 1995.
Journalism then became a race. However, it also had some pleasant results and some tragic magnitude. Talk about good results.
For the first time in the Kargil War of 1999, the people of the country watched a live telecast of a war sitting in their homes. This was the period when the Internet was also expanding in India, news websites were also being created and people who had internet access and began reading on the Internet in detail about the war. That means, at the same time, the social media round began.
This was followed by the Kandahar plane hijack incident when the terrorists hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 and took it to Kandahar. Zee News continuously reported about the incident.
In 2001, there was a 9/11 attack in the US and for the first time, India’s media covered an international event on such a large scale. Then, in December that year, India’s Parliament was attacked.
In the meantime, the parameters of TRP measuring had entered and news channels began to make programmes keeping this TRP in mind. That is where, to an extent, the media began to collapse in terms of content. But there were a number of major incidents when the media diverted attention from the TRP to real journalism, whether it was the Jessica Lal murder case, the news of the 2G scam, the coal scam, CWG scam Jan Lokpal agitation or the Delhi gangrape case — the media played its part.
Then came around when the media built and arrested governments in the country. A particular section of the same media, along with leaders, began to transfer and posting officers. Some journalists had also started preparing a list of cabinet ministers. The impact of attendance at the courts was that journalists became big farmhouses. Some journalists became the owner of media houses and the media turned into an industry. Though the media has been in the hands of big industrial houses earlier, the target has now become only profit-making.
Now, after the media, social media and OTT platforms have come and these are now influencing people’s views too and polluting them as well. Unfortunately, all the information needed by the people is free. However, consumers of news should remember that when you get a product for free, you become a product yourself.
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(the headline, this story has not been published by Important India News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)