Emergency and Laws Imposed on Media

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Emergency And Laws Imposed On Media


The last few years have witnessed an unprecedented turn of events in the socio-political climate of India. These socio-political changes have brought about corresponding changes in the character of the Indian mass media system, especially in the freedom and independence of the Indian press. 25 June 1975 will go down in the history of the Indian Republic as a most infamous day and a black day when the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who headed the Congress Party as its dynastic head imposed an Internal Emergency in India for reasons which had no bearing to the internal security of the country. The Emergency was declared by PM Indira Gandhi to suppress the widespread political unrest and agitation generated by her refusal to submit to her unseating from power in a judgment by the Allahabad High Court on an election petition charging her with electoral corruption in her Lok Sabha General Elections.. 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 Iyer 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 Iyer, then a vacation judge in the Supreme Court, decided on Indira's appeal. On June 24, Justice Krishna Iyer 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 circumstances….”. Thus there were newspaper headlines and billboards and stickers across the city of Delhi which assured:The nation is on the move! Emergency ushers 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 silenced 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...
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