Democracy is at the same time a form of government and a way of life. Abraham Lincoln defined Democracy as the government of the people, for the people and by the people. It is a system in which the sovereignty lies in the hands of the people as their elected representatives rule and run the country.
Articles 19-22 of our constitution give to the citizens the Right to Freedom as one of the Fundamental Rights. The right to freedom of expression enshrined therein gives the media not only a primary role but also a paramount responsibility of expressing public opinion in an through a written word. The media has been made the essential instrument for ensuring openness in society in an attempt to polish, develop and civilize it by the process of analysis, discussion and synthesis. The role of media in a democracy assumes even greater significance when we recognize the fact that in society where an overwhelming majority of people are silent listeners, or spectators access to forum that constantly reaches others has to be viewed as a trust on their behalf for their progress and prosperity. The power of the media has been recognized for many centuries. This is evident from the fact that there have been attempts to control it from the time of the British rule over India.
The first Indian newspaper – Hickey’s Bengal Gazette of 1781 was banned by Warren Hastings. Fearing that the press may present his intrigues to the public, the Governor- General imposed government censorship on Indian papers which continued strictly till 1835 when Lord Metcalf brought in some liberation. In the year 1788, Warren Hastings was impeached by the British Parliament under the advocacy of famous political scientist and writer Edmund Burke. Hastings was acquitted in the impeachment because the judges were British and the sufferers at the hand of Hastings were Indians. The fact that Hastings was morally deprived and against the freedom of the press highlights the fact that the media has power to challenge and expose the mightiest. History tells us that State interference with the press did not disappear at any stage of the British rule. During the period of the partition of Bengal and Boycott and Swadeshi Movement there were severe restrictions on the media.
The oppression of the popular opinion and the restrictions on the media, in fact, go together. This is why the worst form of control of media was found in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.