Indian Newspapers played an important role in the national awakening in India, Raja Ram Mohan Roy is regarded as the forerunner of India journalism. In 1821 he started the Bengal quarterly ‘Samvad Kaumudi’ in 1822 ‘Mirat at Akhbar’ along with the launch of newspapers the straggle for an independent press also started in 1823, a press Act had been passed by the company fearing problem in future but the no of newspapers during the company’s period rept on increasing.
The newspapers had played an active role on the revolt of 1857. They had brought out the barbarities met out to the Indian by the British & had inspired the people to oppose them in 1857, lord.
Canning accepted the role that the press had played in spreading the poison of treason .The native newspapers particularly the Urdu the Persian ones, had helped to arouse antic British feeling. So the govt. followed a policy of suppressing these newspapers. After 1857, due to the press Registration Act of 1867, liberty of press which had been given by Metcalf (in 1835) was finished.
The most repressive measure in this context was the vernacular press Act of Lord Lytton of 1878. Acc to him these newspapers upset the bureaucracy intact there were many factors behind the passing of this Act.
First,the British govt. was draining the India economy through its various policies it crippled India economically while the British Empire was prospering.
Second, Lord Lytton announced the holding of Delhi Durbar to display the prosperity prestige of British Empire even while the native newspapers instigated wile fury by reporting the amount of money that was being spent on it.
Third, Lord Lytton followed a casual policy towards famine during his period. Fourth, the India Arms Act of Lord Lytton was discussed at length by the vernacular. So the British govt. was terrified.
On 22 Oct, 1877 Lytton expressed his views on the vernacular newspapers in one of notes. He wanted a ‘safety valve’ against these newspapers. On March 1878, the vernacular press Bill was placed in order to avoid any type of controversy the bill was hurriedly passed.
This Act empowered the district Magistrates with the previous permission of local government to call upon the printer & publisher of any vernacular newspapers to enter into a bond undertaking there by not to publish anything likely to excite feelings of dissatisfaction against the govt.
Second, any doubtful material should be printed only after passing through the censor & getting permission from the govt.
Third, the magistrate’s decision was final & no appealCould be made to a court of Law.
Fourth, the magistrate could give a warning to the vernacular newspapers & could also forfeit their security.
Fifth, this Act was applicable only to the vernacular newspapers leaving the English newspapers were exempted from it.
The vernacular press Act was severely criticized all over the country. It was regarded as a strangulating Act. This further intensified feelings of resistance & mutual antagonism. Its major result was that it led to a growth of political consciousness in the country. For the first time in India modern means of resistance such as public processions, public meetings signature campaigns & writing in newspapers were adopted one Indian Historian opined that, “With the press Act, India loather freedom of expression. She received political national unity in return which was by any standard a great achievement an achievement which immensely facilitated the growth of a national movement against the foreign rule and its final success.