The essay 'Freedom of Press in India: Significance and Challenges' highlights the significance of press freedom and its role in maintaining national values

The essay 'Freedom of Press in India: Significance and Challenges' by Jahnabi Chakravarty highlights the significance of press freedom, its role in maintaining national values, the legal framework related to press freedom and the challenges surrounding freedom of the press in India. It has long been acknowledged that press freedom is essential to democracy. By focusing on facts and figures rather than presenting a lopsided view among citizens, a free press in a country promotes transparency in how corporations, governments, and other organizations operate and disseminate reliable information on public issues that would otherwise be difficult for the average citizen to obtain.

It serves as the foundation of a civil society that is capable of critical and independent thought and forms its opinions about the nation and the government after carefully examining the available information.


India is the world's largest democratic country and the fourth pillar of this democracy is the ‘press’. A strong nation should be developed with the unrestricted participation of the press, as it is a necessary tool for mass communication. If freedom is the breath of a healthy press, a healthy press is the foundation of a healthy democracy. By allowing the press to voice their thoughts in support of or opposition to the government's policies, a nation promotes independent thoughts and democracy.

Restriction on the right to free speech would undoubtedly be anti-democratic and hinder the press’s capacity to disseminate the truth. To expose instances of corruption and violations of human rights, a free press is vital. The globe celebrates "World Press Freedom Day" on May 3 to promote press freedom and call on all governments to uphold the rights of press institutions and media organizations across the world. The day serves as a reminder for media organizations to consider the limitations imposed and the growth of websites that promote press freedom.

Legal System of India Regarding Press Freedom

Indian Amendment to the Constitution provides legal protection for press freedom, while the Indian laws typically uphold moral ideals, national sovereignty, and national integrity. This combination of protections allows for independent journalism in India. The majority of Indian legislative institutions claimed to be ardently devoted to the right to free speech in its broadest sense based on Article 19, the only clause of our Indian Constitution that specifically mentions citizens' "freedom of speech and expression."

1. The Press Council, a statutory organization that was first founded in India to support democracy and free expression, fought to enact the Press Council Act in 1978.

2. Article 19(1)(a) states that in order to maintain democratic principles and practices, individuals must have the freedom to express their thoughts and views in public.

3. Article 19(2) of the Constitution aims to moderate freedom by setting essential restraints in order to safeguard law and order, state security, morality, and decency.

Article 19(2) does impose some limitations to protect the country and its integrity. The installation of limitations may be necessary in response to threats to India's sovereignty and integrity, state security, law and order, good relations with other countries, transgressions of morality and decency, defamation, and other offences. Dr. Ambedkar, the leader of the drafting committee, made it abundantly evident during deliberations in the Constituent Assembly that the presses right to freedom of expression was on par with that of an individual or citizen and that no special mention of it was required.

Role of the Free Press in Preserving the National Values

A free, competent, and accountable media is the foundation of any democracy. All citizens should have access to the unrestricted interchange of ideas that the press offers. The press helps the public participate in healthy discussion by exposing hidden facts or disagreements.

a) The majority of public opinions are expressed and disseminated in the press. The forbidden topics are emphasized, and those that call for dialogue are raised. A free press criticizes the harmful actions of the government.

b) Information is disseminated via the press; it acts as a channel for communication between the general people and the government.

c) A press examines and interprets the truth. News isn't reliable and secure until a press performs fact-checking. In order to benefit everyone—including the government—the press must give readers accurate information without distorting facts.

India’s Rank in the Press Freedom Index

India was placed 80th in the inaugural World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) in 2002. Since 2010, India's ranking has been gradually declining. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a group that monitors worldwide media, India was ranked 140th in 2019, 142nd in 2021, 150th in 2022 and ranking dropped to 161 out of 180 nations in the year 2023 WPFI. The score shows that press freedom in India has been declining over the past few years.

Surprisingly, press freedom has drastically decreased in nations with democratic regimes. According to several reputable international organizations, working as a journalist in India is risky. In India, journalists face brutal attacks both on and off the job for their work. In 2020, the government created the "Index Monitoring Cell" to investigate the deteriorating WPFI. Politically driven press, journalistic safety, and the concentration of media ownership—can be linked to India's declining press freedom index.

The Challenges Faced by the Press

At times journalism can be quite risky; journalists might receive threats of murder, trolling, doxing, rape, threats of legal action including libel and privacy lawsuits, intimidation of sources, draining resources from media organizations, obstruction articles etc. Powerful people might impede and endanger a journalist's career by threatening license revocation, decrying the media, and harassing or even arresting journalists. This misuse of power damages the public's trust in journalists.

The biggest challenges the Indian press faces are its ties to political parties and inability to function independently. Some of India's main media outlets are allegedly controlled by people with connections to the country's political system raises severe concerns for the press according to RSF's Media Ownership Monitor. Since news reporting is a low-paying industry, many professionals frequently disseminate false material in exchange for money, a practice known as "paid news." If editors and reporters bow down to the powerful side because they value their paychecks more than journalistic ethics, there will be a severe crisis. The media should be fearless and neutral in exposing the wrongdoing of all political parties rather than favouring one over another for financial gain.

However, unrestricted press freedom might also be detrimental. Controlling fake news is essential since it might disturb a country's socio-political atmosphere. Due to the growth of the internet and online media sources, the accuracy of the information provided has come into question. Therefore, it is preferable to regulate the press through legislative restrictions when they do not violate their obligation to report the truth, go too far, or become biased. There should be a perfect balance between press freedom and press regulation. Since the emergence of digital media two decades ago, journalism has undergone rapid change. Additionally, it will become much more difficult whenever news automation attempts to completely replace journalists.


In Nelson Mandela's words, the press is the "foot soldiers of democracy, the lifeblood of democracy". To communicate its opinions with the public and defend the democratic way of life, the press needs the freedom to express itself. Although press freedom is crucial, authorities are starting to impose certain limits on it as concerns about incorrect information, data manipulation, fake news, populism, etc. develop in the current environment.

Press freedom should not be interpreted as a right to publish and speak negatively about anyone. Instead, it should provide open access to information and constructive criticism of the conduct of politicians. The press must publicly disclose corruption-related scandals without any pressure. In order to protect journalists, the government must also act in good faith by passing the "Protection of Journalists Act". We eagerly await the time when there will be no unnecessary restrictions on press freedom and laws promptly implemented to safeguard journalists.


[1] Manmeet Singh, Freedom of Press - Article 19(1)(a), Available Here

[2] Kirti S. Soni, Freedom of Press - Indian Constitution, Available Here

[3] Mugundhan, B., & Renuga, C., A Study on Freedom of Press in India: With Reference to Article 19, Available Here

[4] Why Declining Press Freedom Is Nobody’s Concern in India, Available Here

[5] Anubhav Garg, The Fourth Pillar of Indian Democracy: Freedom of the Press, Available Here

[6] Jess Doshi, Freedom of Press in India, Available Here

[7] India slips in World Press Freedom Index, ranks 161 out of 180 countries, Available Here

[8] Nehal Kharyal, Protection of Journalists from Online Harassment, Available Here

Updated On 9 Oct 2023 10:35 AM GMT
Jahnabi Chakravarty

Jahnabi Chakravarty

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