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Emergency and Laws Imposed on Media

Immediately after this declaration, the government tightened its controls on the Indian mass media, especially on the newspapers which had reputations of being free and lively under the protection of Article 19(A) of the Indian constitution which is the fundamental freedom of speech and expression. Courts and Judges played a significant role in the history of the Emergency. Two judges Justice V R Krishna lyer and Justice Jag Mohan Lal Sinha were crucial to the imposition of the Emergency.

Justice Sinha’s (Allahabad High Court) verdict on June 12, 1975, declared Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha as void. Justice lyer, then a vacation Judge in the Supreme Court, decided on Indira’s appeal. On June 24, Justice Krishna lyer gave a conditional stay allowing her to remain a member of Parliament, but disallowing her to take part in the proceedings of the Lok Sabha. Indira Gandhi became increasingly more threatened by the mounting criticisms of her government, Immediately she took control of the press, prohibiting their reporting of all domestic and international news.

The government expelled several foreign correspondents (mainly American and British) and withdrew accreditation from more than 40 Indian reporters who normally covered the capital. In recent years, this has probably been the most important development in the life of the Indian press. B. G Verghese, eminent personality in the media field says “AIR, TV and the Films Division having long since been reduced to pliant tools in the hands of the government the muzzling of the Indian Press virtually completed the takeover of the okmedia. Thus a free democratic country had virtually turned into a police state for nearly nineteen months. In her Republic Day in 1976 Indira Gandhi lamented ” We are not happy to declare Emergency.. but we had to under the compulsion of . . Thus there were newspaper headlines and billboards and stickers circumstances… ” in era of discipline! Marching to a better tomorrow! Emergency for a stronger more prosperous future! But did the newspapers really feel as positive about the Emergency as the Jingle above?

What was the story behind the newspapers toeing the lines of the Government? Gandhi in an interview to M. Shamim said ” I am not happy that we had to impose regulations on newspapers… but some Journalists has shed all objectivity and independence and allied themselves totally with the opposition front and did anything to spread doom and defeatism”. What were the implications of such a paranoia? In other words what were the press laws that ilenced the free press and took away the basic right of the press- right to freedom of expression.

This paper, therefore will deal with the following important aspects of the recent metamorphosis of the Indian mass media; Indira Gandhi’s methods of controlling the mass media and her concept of mass media freedom in India, it will also be seen if there was any disjuncture in the press policies. For this the purpose will go into some detail about the Constitutional foundations of the freedom of the press in India. LITERATURE REVIEW Indira Gandhi and the Death of the Free Indian Press National Emergency and Press Censorship: The Bengal Gazette was the first weekly newspaper to be published in India by James Hickey in 1780.

But the attacks on the the Company led to the closure of the paper in 1794. Many politically active English men were deported which Milton Israel writes reflected the Company’s conviction ” that the Government was not the public’s business and its determination to suppress critical comment in print”. The British passed a number of laws to curb the freedom of the press like the Wellesley Regulation in 1799which initiated the practice of constraints in the press. It banned virtually all discussion of the Government in the press.

After this a host of other such laws ensuing constraints on the press were passed like the Adam Regulations (1823), Canning Press Law (1857). The Metcalf Press Law (1835) did for sometime revert the environment of the press by lifting precensorship granting the press the freedom to print comment on the Government ( subject only to laws of sedition), but after the 1857 Revolt the Government became more precautions and passed the Canning Press Act of 1857. But for the nationalists like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru etc a free press provided a platform to address the nation and to critique the Government.

The proliferation ofa number of vernacular and English newspapers greatly added to the strength of the freedom struggle. When on 7th February 1919 Motilal Nehru launched his newspaper ‘Independent’ he envisioned it to think aloud for India’. EMERGENCY OF 1975 by the mounting criticisms of her government, she declared a state of emergency. Immediately she took control of the press, prohibiting their reporting of all domestic and international news. The government expelled several foreign correspondents (mainly American and British) and withdrew accreditation from more than 40 Indian reporters who normally covered the capital.

In recent years, this has probably been the most important development in the life of the Indian press. The declaration of a national emergency, which is Justified under the Indian Constitution, lasted for about 19 months. Indira Gandhi’s government, rather than taking this as a poltical challenge, resorted to declaring a national emergency and imprisoning the opposition party leaders, including all dissenting voices from the media. The fundamental rights of the Indian people were suspended, and strict controls were imposed on freedom of speech and press.

According to the Right of Freedom-Article 9(1) of the Indian Constitution, Indians have the right (a) to freedom of speech and expression, (b) to assemble peacefully and without arms, (c) to form associations or unions, (d) to move freely across the length and breadth of the country, (e) to reside or settle in any part of India, (f) to own or dispose of property, and (g) to carry on any lawful trade of occupation. ‘ The second part of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution enumerates limitations on the various types of freedom.

It mentions that the “states shall be authorized to make any law restricting the exercise of the freedom of speech n the interest of the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, and decency and good conduct . “The states have also been authorized to restrict press freedom “in order to check slanderous articles and promotion of disaffection towards or contempt of court. Indira Gandhi’s government use the “security of the state” and “promotion of disaffection” as its defense for imposing strict control on the press.

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