Freedom of Press


This article has been written by Mansi Singh,  a 1st year student o Amity Law School , Raipur Chhattisgarh

Freedom of speech and expression is probably the most universally accepted right, similarly freedom of the press is also considered to be the most important right which should be protected in a democratic society.  Freedom of press is essential because press guarantees peoples engagement or participation in the decision and action of government. And “popular participation is the essence of our democracy” Corazon Aquino.

This freedom can only be accessible in society where there Is right to free speech and expression. Also, the freedom of information can be enjoyed when there are sources from which information can flow. And these sources would be available where there is right to speech and expression. Freedom of expression and freedom to receive and impart knowledge are concomitant of one another. In fact, these two overlap each other. Freedom to impart knowledge is considered as an expression of an opinion.

For the print media as well as for the audio-visual media, it is very incumbent to give information and ideas which the public has the right to receive. And if the right of freedom of speech and expression is no given to the press it would not be able to play its role of public watch dog.

This freedom of speech and expression is granted under Article 19 of the Indian constitution.


It is essential that people should have the freedom of speech and can express and make their views to the people at large. As a medium of mass communication press plays a role in building a strong and a viable society. And a denial of freedom to express and to speak would necessarily undermine the power to influence public opinion.

Article 19 does not specifically mention freedom of speech the article 19(1)(a) of the constitution states only freedom of speech and expression. Dr. B.R Ambedkar, chairman of the drafting committee, made it clear in the Constituent assembly debate, that there is no special mention is needed for the freedom of press as a right, as the press and each and every individual or a citizen were the same as far as their right of expression and was concerned.

According to the framers of the Indian constitution freedom of press is an integral part of the freedom of speech and expression as per the article 19(1)(a) of the constitution.

  • In Romesh Thaper vs State of Madras and Brij Bhushan vs State of Delhi.

Supreme Court took it for granted the fact that the freedom of the press was an essential or integral part of the right to freedom of speech and expression. It observed by Patanjali Sastri J. in Romesh Thaper that freedom of speech and expression. It was observed that freedom of speech and expression includes ideas and that freedom was ensured by the freedom of circulation

With the right to speak and express the right also carries with it right to publish and circulate one’s ideas, opinions and other views with complete freedom. As per clause 1 the press has the right to express and publish one’s views and opinions but the freedom of press is not absolute, public Interest should be given utmost importance. For the same clause 2 of Article 19 lays down reasonable limitations to the freedom of speech and expression in matters affecting

  1. Sovereignty and integrity of the state.
  2. Security of the state.
  3. Friendly relation with foreign countries.
  4. Decency and Morality.
  5. Contempt of court.
  6. Incitement of an offence.
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In United States the freedom of press is guided by first amendment to the US constitution which specifically says that freedom be in no way abridge the laws. Similar situation was there in India post freedom as it followed the saying of Jefferson’s who said “were it left me to decide whether we should have government without newspaper, or newspaper without government I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter one”. The Indian leader Jawahar Lal Nehru also had some similar words “I would rather have a completely free press, with all danger involve in the wrong use of that freedom a suppressed or regulated press”.

But Mrs. Gandhi had some different views or thought regarding the press and freedom of press, she never favored the idea of press. She always blamed press for giving wide publicity to student unrest in India. Later when she imposed emergency, action was taken against the press immediately and complete censorship was imposed.

  • IN Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed “one-sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non-information, all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce. Freedom of speech and expression includes right to impart and receive information which includes freedom to hold opinions.

  • IN Indian Newspaper v. Union of India

It was held that the press plays a significant role in the democracy machinery. The courts have duty to uphold the freedom of press and invalidate all laws and administration action that abridge that freedom. Freedom of press has three essential elements they are: –

  1. Freedom of access to all sources of information.
  2. Freedom of publication.
  3. Freedom of circulation.

Similarly, in Bennett Coleman and co. v. Union of India

The validity of the newspaper control order, which fixed the maximum number of pages, was struck down by the court holding it to be violative of provision of Article 19(1)(a) and not to be reasonable restriction under Article 19(2). The court also rejected the peal made by Government.

  • Conclusion

I would like to conclude with the quote of Thomas Carlyle “Press is the fourth pillar Of Democracy”. And hence, this freedom can be seen and recognized in the constitution. The right to speech and expression provide in Article 19 of Indian Constitution,

It helps to express one’s views as well views of other people too. But freedom to speak and express should be granted with some restrictions which are mentioned in Article 19, like defamation, contempt of court etc.


Read about Yellow Journalism here
Read about Laws Protecting Journalists from Online Harassment here


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