The Oldest Newspapers Published In South Asia

The Times Of India office building: the newspaper photographed in 1898.
The Times Of India office building: the newspaper photographed in 1898.

History And Overview of Early Publishing

The oldest newspapers ever published in South Asia were printed in British India during the occupation of the East India Company. The first printing press was established in Bombay by the British in 1684. Even then, there were earlier press machines brought in by the Portuguese in 1550, and the first book was published in 1557 by the Jesuit of Goa. From 1684, the newspapers and printing presses were crucial in exposing the malpractices going on in the colonial territories. The disgruntled officers of the East India company wished to publish and expose these ill practices at the expense of their freedom. Various attempts were carried out by the likes of William Bolts in 1776 to publish newspapers but they were censured by the company’s court of directors for ‘private trade’. However, in 1780, James Augustus Hicky published the first newspaper called the “Bengal Gazette” or “Calcutta General Advertiser”. The paper was too outspoken and open in criticism of Warren Hastings and Chief Justice E Impey. This led to the closure of the paper two years later after Hickey was put in jail.

The Various Press Acts

Various acts were put in place by the government to scrutinize the content of the newspapers before publication. It was also an attempt to prevent defamatory publication by the French against the British. Thus, the Censorship of Press Act in 1799 was enacted by Lord Wellesley. Under this act, every newspaper was supposed to print the names of the editor and proprietor before publication. However, this act was abolished under General Hastings.

The Licensing Regulation act of 1823 by John Adam required every publisher to get a license from the government failure to which would lead to a fine of Rs.400. The press would also be ceased by the government. The act was abolished by Charles Metcalf.

The Vernacular Press act IX 1878 required publishers to avoid publishing anything that would interfere with peace or cause a security threat. All publishers were required to pay a certain amount as a security guarantee. The law was not applicable to the English press. This act was abolished in 1882 by Lord Ripon.

The Newspaper Act 1908 gave the magistrates the power to confiscate press equipment. Under this act, about seven presses were ceased.

Press regulating act of 1942 prevented messages regarding civil disturbances and acts of sabotage. The government had the power to censorship on any subject.

Oldest Newspapers In British India

Hicky's Bengal Gazette was a weekly newspaper founded by James Augustus Hicky in the capital of British India, Calcutta, in 1780. The newspaper was published in English and was the first English-language newspaper on the Indian sub-continent. James Hicky used the newspaper to criticize the activities of Governor-General Lord Warren Hasting’s wife, Lady Hastings, after which the wrath of the Governor led to his incarceration. While in jail, Hicky continued to write articles until his movable types were taken away from him. The newspaper ceased publication two years later, on the 23rd of March 1782, having been popular among British soldiers posted in India. As the first newspaper on the Indian subcontinent, the locals were inspired to write their own. Later, newspapers such as Calcutta Gazette (1784), Bengal Journal (1785), and The Oriental Magazine or Calcutta Amusement (1785) were published. The Bombay Samachar (1822) is the oldest Asian newspaper still in print and published in Gujarati. The Times of India was founded in 1838 and is one of the largest print media houses in India today.

The Oldest Newspapers Published In South Asia

11780Hicky's Bengal Gazette or, The Original Calcutta General AdvertiserEnglishCalcuttaBritish India
21780India Gazette or Calcutta Public AdvertiserEnglishCalcuttaBritish India
31784Calcutta GazetteEnglishCalcuttaBritish India
41785Bengal JournalEnglishCalcuttaBritish India
51785The Oriental Magazine or Calcutta AmusementEnglishCalcuttaBritish India
61785The Asiatick MiscellanyEnglishCalcuttaBritish India
71785Madras CourierEnglishMadrasBritish India
81786Calcutta Chronicle and General AdvertiserEnglishCalcuttaBritish India
91788The Asiatic Mirror and Commercial AdvertiserEnglishCalcuttaBritish India
101789Bombay HeraldEnglishBombayBritish India
111794AzdararArmenianMadrasBritish India
121818Samachar DarpanBengaliSeramporeBritish India
131822Bombay SamacharGujaratiBombayBritish India
141838Times of IndiaEnglishBombayBritish India

More in Society