Press in India during and after the First World War

During the first world war there was widespread political agitation as well as criticism among the public due to India's participation in the First World War. Since more than 1 million Indians from different regions across India participated in it so it was obvious that people may get agitated via print media and that could result in an embarrassing situation for the British, thus along with already existing press restriction rules like Newspaper (Incitement to Offences) Act, 1908 & Indian Press Act of 1910, the defense of India rules were imposed on press in India.

Laws restricting freedom of Press during and after First World War

Newspapers Act (Incitement to offences)1908

  • During Swadeshi and Boycott Movement India saw widespread protest against the Govt Policies like that of Partition of Bengal during 1905. In order to curb these anti-government activities and repress the rising militant trends Govt imposed restrictions in form of Newspapers Act of 1908.
  • District Magistrate was entrusted with the powers of confiscating the printing press or other related material in case he found the newspaper publishing anti- govt material.
  • The editors and printers of the confiscated newspaper were given the right to appeal to the high court within 15 days of forfeiture of the press.

Indian Press Act, 1910

  • Due to increasing influence of the Journals like Kesari, Jugantar, Bandematram on local youth and events like attempted assassination of a local Judge in Bengal in 1908, this act revived the extreme repressive provisions of Vernacular Press Act of 1878.
  • According to the provisions of the act local govt was empowered to demand the security at the time of registration from the printer or publisher and could forfeit it, in case it found newspaper publishing any objectionable material.
  • Fresh registrations were allowed for a deposit of more than 1000 Rupees.
  • The printer had to submit two copies of each issue to the local government free of cost.
  • Although the right to appeal in front of special tribunal of High Court was given to the confiscated newspaper.

Defence of India Act of 1915

  • The act for ensuring public safety and defense of British India entrusted the power to make rules which he deems necessary, on the Governor General of India.
  • The scope of act was not only limited to extremist revolutionary views but also it suppressed the voices of many Moderate nationalist leaders.
  • The act was criticised widely and in Lucknow session of Indian National Congress, 1916 a resolution was passed alarming the extensive use of the act.

Sapru Committee

  • A press committee in 1921 was appointed under the Chairmanship of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, then law member of Viceroy s executive council.
  • The committee was mandated, to review the working of Press Laws in India.
  • On the recommendation of Sapru Committee the Newspapers Act, 1908 and India Press Act 1910 were repealed.

Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931

  • To suppress the nationalist activities under Mahatma Gandhi, particularly the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930 British Govt enacted this act.
  • Under the provisions of the act extensive powers were given to the provincial governments to suppress the propaganda for Civil Disobedience Movement and it was further amplified in the form of Criminal Amendment Act of 1932 to include all activities which undermine the Govt authority.

Growth of Press in India during and after the First World War

  • Bombay Chronicle an English Language paper and an important chronicler of the political disruptions was started by Pherozeshah Mehta, in 1913.
  • Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya started "The Leader" in Allahabad it became a mouthpiece of Moderates and later many of Mahatma Gandhi s writings were also published in it.
  • Annie Besant bought Madras Standard and renamed it as New India and this newspaper was used to criticise the colonial Government and propagate the idea of Self Rule.
  • The Independent newspaper began by Motilal Nehru in Allahabad in the year 1919. This newspaper suffered severe repression at the hands of British and even the security deposit of the newspaper was confiscated.
  • Gandhi Ji in India started Young India a weekly newspaper in English, supporting Congress Program.
  • Hindustan Times was founded in 1924 with K.M. Panikkar as its first editor and Madan Mohan Malviya and Tara Singh as among the members of Managing Committee.
  • Indian Express was started in 1931 at Chennai and in the year 1933 it launched the Tamil Edition Dinamani from Madurai.
  • Hindustan the Hindi counterpart of Hindustan Times, was set up in 1936.

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