A newspaper is any printed periodical or work containing public news or comments on public news. Each newspaper tries to win the heart and loyalty of its readers through news and views, articles, pictures, poems, cartoons, editorials, presentation techniques and exclusive stories and news items. It censures the corrupt and the erring. It airs public grievances sad reflects public opinion through letters to the press. Napoleon feared four hostile newspapers more than a thousand bayonets. According to him “a newspaper is a grumbler, & censurer, a giver of advice, a regent of sovereigns, a tutor of nations.” Gopal Krishna Gokhale considered the newspapers to be the rousers and the sentinels of the voice of people.

In India newspapers have a vital role to play and an important duty to perform, both as ‘vox populi’ (voice of the people) and as builder of public opinion. In this sense, it is the ‘people’s university’—book, pulpit, platform, forum, theatre and counselor, all in one. There is no interest—literary, social, political, religious, commercial, economic, scientific, technological, agricultural, mechanical, cultural, histrionic and so on and so forth—which is not covered “by the news­paper. There, a vast majority of the people in this country are still illiterate or at least unenlightened, even among the literate persons, about two-thirds do not read newspaper regularly. The Indian masses lack intellectual capacity and comprehension required in reading a newspaper. Approximately 17 percent of people read newspapers and out these dot even half of the people read editorials, comments or serious initial articles. The rest content themselves by reading the headlines or the topical news.

Young men read sports news and film reviews, the businessmen confine themselves to market reports about shares, stocks and the prices of gold, silver and essential commodi­ties. Only old, retired people pour over the newspaper from end to end, and that too because they have no other pastime to pass time. This shows that the number of those who have genuine interest in newspapers is very low. But it is these people—national and state leaders, teachers, lawyers, philosophers, academicians, technocrats and bureaucrats—who form the intellectual and intelligent section of the Indian society. They speak for the common people and voice their grievances against mismanagement of public affairs. They serve as a link between the rulers and the rated, the government and the people and complete the chain of action and reaction.

The newspapers in India perform their pole as guardians of the public interest, watch-dogs and a source of all kinds of informa­tion. They are not State-controlled, as in U.S.S.R. and Pakistan, they enjoy freedom of expression. Of course, they must function within the bounds of law. They must not infringe the law regarding libel and deformation, otherwise they would be liable to penal action. Even the restricted freedom of the Indian newspapers it the envy of the journalists in other countries of Asia where there has been a prolonged spell of military dictatorship, autocratic rule or emergency.


In India, the newspapers keep a powerful check on the mis­deeds, the tyranny and this, corrupt practices of the government. Thomas Jefferson paid rich tributes to this function of the newspaper when he said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

However, all newspapers do not play a positive end construc­tive role expected of them. There is a section of newspapers in India, which indulges in blackmail, extortion of money and distor­tion of facts and news. This yellow journalism is despicable. Such newspapers violate all ethical standards and adopt a purely merce­nary and anti-national attitude. This is sub-standard and base Journalism. They should be treated like smugglers, black-marketers and drug-pedlars and antisocial elements and should be dealt with an iron-hand. What Jefferson said about newspapers in America applies to newspapers in India also. ”I Chapter, truth; II Chapter, probabilities; third, possibilities; fourth, lies; fifth, blatant lies; and the first chapter is the shortest,”

Most of the country’s leading newspapers are owned or domi­nated by big industrial houses and capitalists—Birja, Dalmia, Express group, As a result, the interests of the general public are often sacri­ficed at the altar of capitalism and business interests. Moreover, the lion’s share of the total circulation of newspapers, a little above 5crore, belongs to the bigger dailies published from Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, the metropolitan towns. The national dailies enjoy a great deal of influence and command huge resources. But the smaller newspapers, that are published in the regional languages and that have a smaller circulation, have to face perpetual financial crisis and are often forced to close down. This belies the Govern­ment policy of patronizing smaller newspapers and imposing rest­raints in bigger newspapers.

In several countries abroad, especially in the West, newspapers have power to make and break governments; but in India news­papers do not carry much weight and do not cut much ice. The Government does not pay much heed to their views and does not respond to their criticism for the simple reason that it commands a colossal majority in the Parliament. Gloating over absolute majority, the Government even tries to shifle free press (as has several times been done in the case of the Indian Express group of papers).


One common method of pressurising newspapers that the Central or State Governments in India adopt is to stop giving adver­tisements and notifications released by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (D.A.V.P.), Government departments and public sector enterprises; to such newspapers as do not cringe and adopt a fawning attitude and thus made them suffer financially. Advertisements are sometimes used as a weapon to corapell complia­nce, for it would be impossible for a newspaper to survive without advertisements, the prop and the life-blood of all journalism. A num­ber of such cases have been taken up in the Press Council of India and have been commented upon. Another method is that of stopp­ing or substantially cutting down the supply of newsprint paper quota to such ‘dare-devil’ newspapers.

Newspapers in this renaissance country should regard their pro­fession as a noble mission of educating and enlightening people. They should impose certain moral and national restraints and discipline upon themselves. They should refrain from indulging Its rumors and turning out biased information and distorted truths from ulte­rior motives. As purveyors of news and views, they should play the rote of ‘people’s university’ and serve the motherland as guardians and custodians of people’s liberty.