Censorship Act 1799

The Censorship Act 1799

We know that in 1684, British had established a printing Press in Bombay. However, even before that we have traces of Press in India.

  • In 1550, the Portuguese had brought a Press Machine with them and the Jesuit of Goa published the first book in 1557.

Since 1684, no newspaper was published in India in the company’s territories for; it could awake either its subjects or their bosses sitting in England.

  • Not all officers and servants of a company like East India Company were happy. There were some disgruntled servants who wished to “publish” and “expose” the malpractices in the company and its territories like “wikileaks” is doing today by letting out the diplomatic cables. J

A fruitless attempt was made by one of those discontents named William Bolts in 1776, who after censured by the company’s court of Directors for “private trade” expressed intentions to “publish” a newspaper.

It was in 1780, when James Augustus Hickey published the first newspaper in India titled “Bengal Gazette” or “Calcutta General Advertiser” in 1780. But he was too outspoken and the result was that his press was seized in 1782. Later, some more newspapers were published which were:

  1. The Calcutta Gazette 1784
  2. The Bengal Journal 1785
  3. The Oriental Magazine of Calcutta 1785
  4. The Calcutta Chronicle 1786
  5. The Madras Courier 1788
  6. The Bombay Herald 1789

But almost all of them did not choose the “blasphemy” of the company and thus avoided clash like James Augustus Hickey did.

But, in 1799, Lord Wellesley brought the Censorship of Press Act, 1799. The idea was to stop the French from publishing anything which could harm British in any way. This act brought all the newspapers under the Government scrutiny before their publication. This act was later extended in 1807 and covered all kinds of Press Publications newspapers, magazine, books and Pamphlets. The rules were relaxed when Lord Hastings came into power.

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