white black legal international law journal ISSN: 2581-8503

Peer-Reviewed Journal | Indexed at Manupatra, HeinOnline, Google Scholar & ROAD



Authored By-Nupur Kumari

                               Research Scholar

         Chanakya National Law University Patna


Theories comprises of the basic principle which serves the basis to study the particular subject. The media theory emphasizes social and cultural evolutions of media technology. These theories are very important to analyze the role of media in the society. Press theories serve the important guidelines towards the philosophical tools for the growth and development of media. The theories provides the the answer to the very basic queries pertaining to why the things happen, how it happens and the way it takes place. Many theorists have given their best efforts to analyze the positive and negative impacts of media in the society with the help of these theories. In the present times these media theories are of great significance since it helps us to study the impacts of media upon the society by the application of these theories. In the present times these press theories are of great significance as it helps to analyze the impacts of the trends of journalism upon the public. The four theories of the media covers all aspects mass communication such as press, television, radio and newspapers. The authoritarian theory requires the direct control of the government over the press. In this theory the media is not granted freedom to broadcast any such thing which tarnishes the  functioning and reputation of the established authority of the government. In the present times this theory is in practice in many non democratic countries also such as:- Latin America, Asia and Africa. Libertarian theory is based on the idea of free press theory. This theory became popular in the 18th century and guarantees complete freedom to the media. The media should be granted complete freedom to publish whatever it likes. The social responsibility theory is based upon the idea of positive liberty. This theory guarantees freedom to all the sectors to come and participate. The Utilitarian theory illustrates that the freedom of press comprises of the bundle of rights such as:- the freedom to read, listen and think.

The research paper aims to discuss the historical background behind the evolution of media freedom and at the same time it elucidates the recent developments in the field of media technology. In the recent times the practice of “media trial” is widely prominent which has caused great disturbances in the democratic society.

Key Words:- Freedom; press; Media; information, broadcasting; communication technology; cyberspace; speech; expression.



The freedom of speech and expression has proved to be one essential for the democratic functioning of the society. Freedom of speech and expression comprises of the freedom of press which lays the foundation stone for the democratic society. [1]Press provides every possible comprehensive information pertaining to the economic, social and cultural aspects.

Free press is a sine qua non for the functioning of democracy. Free press is considered to be oxygen for the survival of democracy. Democracy cannot exist without freedom of press. Free press is considered as a vital agency to keep a check upon the rising corruption and injustice of the society. Article 19 of the UDHR guarantees the freedom of speech and expression which emphasizes that each and every individual has a freedom to express his views and expression without any interference. This involves the freedom to express one’s opinion either in oral form or in writing with the help of any agencies of the media. Article 19of the International Covenant of the Civil and political rights also incorporates the freedom of  speech and expressions.

The right to speech and expressions is one of the features inherent in human beings and it is one of such rights which is beyond any legal parameters. In other words it could be said that the freedom of speech and expression is a right which is born with human beings. This is evident through the writings and paintings carved on the stones, walls and woods. In India the edicts of Ashoka and other emperors are considered as a medium to express their thoughts and opinions. However with the invention of paper the freedom of speech and expressions took a concrete shape in the form of freedom of press.[2] Earlier the freedom of press was evident through rudimentary form.

Later on the news was published in the form of letters which is also known as the “newsletters” and this was the earliest form of newspapers. These newsletters were issued during the medieval era particularly in the Mughal period and continued till the arrival of the East India Company.    

The evolution of media primarily dates back to the 18th century in the British era. The press played an important role in the history of the nationalist movement. The nationalist movement was fought for the suppression of the freedom of speech and expressions through series of laws.[3] In those days the press played an important role in generating political consciousness amongst the masses and the british government felt necessary to enact the suppressive laws to neutralize the freedom of press.


Theories Of The Freedom Of Media

The media related theories would comprise of the composition of the social, political and philosophical principles which would regulate the relationship of the media and society. Historically the freedom of press would operate from top to downwards direction just like the house of organs of some people which would reflect the opinions of the common people.

Authoritarian Theory

In the English law the freedom of press was bestowed in the hands of the King. The Authoritarian theory would refer to that situations in which all forms of communication are controlled by governing elite class and influential beauraucrats. The theory aims to protect the media from all such threats in the nations through different forms of the communication.[4] The press is the medium through which rulers control could be enhanced more in the particular nation rather than preventing the threats. The authorities shall have all the powers to govern and control the media by making different laws with respect to the license of the media and at the same time also impose certain censorship.

Libertarian Theory

The concept of Libertarian theory rests upon the principle of the Negative aspect of the liberty. There is a shift from “freedom from” to the “freedom from external constraint”.[5] After the end of monarchy, the press took a step forward and played an important role to find out the truth and it

acts as the open and free platform to express one’s ideas, thoughts and it was not limited by the government control. [6]The founding fathers of the United States aimed at establishing the freedom of press.

The Social Responsibility Theory

In the recent years it has been observed that the press has been controlled by few people basically the group of three men who would control the operations of the media broadcasting and television. These monopolies often invite the government to intervene due to which the free expression of ideas and thoughts by the people becomes difficult. The best way to operate media is through granting the equal opportunities for all the sectors to come and participate. This could be held as the social responsibility of the press. The two theories the liberation and social responsibility theory cannot coexists at the same point of time. The theory of social responsibility is dependent upon the idea of the positive liberty. There is a necessity to have the freedom through the ethical means. The social responsibility theory reflects that there has been negligence on the part of the founding fathers as they have failed to recognize the freedom of press. Liberalism rests upon the fact that the change often brings the rational transition and leads to the rational ends thus leading to the perfectness of human nature and society.[7]Libertarianism reflects the idea of the limited government and if anything is not proving dangerous for the existence by any means then there should be no restrictions imposed on it.

Utilitarian Theory of Rights

There are two kinds of rights such as the Natural rights and inalienable rights. The natural rights theory implies that freedom of press constitutes the chain of different rights and it constitutes various rights such as the right to read and listen to others and freedom shall constitute that there could be nothing which could prevent any person from throwing his book, avoiding to listen and right not to watch television. The utilitarian theory would constitute that freedom of press is broad in nature and it is a composition of all the rights such as the rights as well as duties to decide one’s activities such as freedom to read, listen and at the same time to think. [8]

Historical Evolutions And Conceptual Framework Of Media Freedom In India

Before the existence of the present constitution there was no constitution. The declaration made by queen Victoria in the year 1858 after the roots of the British government were firmly established in India, until then there was no such mention of the freedom of speech and expression. 

In the case of Arnold v.King Emperor[9] there was an appeal by the editor of the Newspaper pertaining to the charges of criminal libel which was labeled against him under section 499 of IPC. The judgment of the Privy Council was delivered by the Lord Shaw of Dunfernlime who further observed that the Freedom of journalist and the freedom of subject go hand in hand. The freedom of journalist is the smaller part of the freedom of subject.  Till whatever end the freedom of subject stretches up to that extent the freedom of journalist shall also extend. The rights and privileges of both are equal. The media acts as the mirror of the society, so the dissemination of expressions of ideas and opinions also makes it more careful and responsible but at the same time the freedom of expression in the form of the liberty to comment, reflect and criticize cannot extend beyond the rights of freedom granted to the subject.

The preamble of the Indian constitution also depicts the “Liberty of thought and Expression”[10]. The right has been bestowed under the Part III of the constitution of India under Art 19(1)(a). The freedom of Media is implicitly recognized under this article. In the historic case of Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras[11] it was held that freedom of media is a broad right which would constitute everything such as the freedom of circulation of the ideas, liberty to publish and to comment and criticize as well. The right granted under article 19(1)(a) has been interpreted by the Apex Court in the landmark case of Life Insurance Corporation v Manubhai D. Shah.[12] The court held that the freedom of speech and expression is a broad right. It could be interpreted as the right to express oneself either by way of criticisms and opinions freely without fear by way of speaking, in a written form, in the pictorial form, printed form or by way of electronic media or by other ways. The rights and privileges granted to the citizens and the rights and privileges granted to the press are on equal footing. The rights and liberties bestowed upon the Press cannot be more than

the rights and liberties granted to the citizens. The two rights and liberties have always been parallel to each other.

These provisions have also been reflected in many other Constitution and International Declarations. It has been mentioned in the French Declaration 1789 that the liberty to express one’s thoughts and ideas is one of the most cherished rights of the man. Through this right each and every citizen is at the liberty to express his thoughts freely by way of speech, publication of ideas without fear at the same time the media takes up the responsibility for its own actions which depicts the rights restricted by the positive limitations. These limitations have been imposed to prevent the abuse of the privileges by the media. Apart from this the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights, 1948 under the art 19 which also reflects that Every individual has the freedom of speech and expression of the ideas and thoughts. [13]


The Concept Of The Freedom Of Press

The concept freedom of press is of complex nature. It shall constitute that there is a need of the independent of the various factors internal and external factors which would force journalists not to carry out the media works. Freedom of press shall  lead to freedom from all such force and compulsions which would be experienced throughout the activities of the media and press. The freedom of press shall in general comprise of the absolute freedom and the activities of the press should be independently conducted freely. This would also involve the establishment of press company, collecting news and information, editing the news, writing articles, publishing and distributing of newspapers.[14]

Functions of the Freedom of Speech and Expression[15]

To Spread education and knowledge.
To speak freely without any restrictions and limitations imposed by the government.
The media should determine truth of the society by way of debate.
Media should learn what is important to say.

Freedom of press would constitute freedom of communication and expression and shall include both the published materials and also electronic media. The freedom shall compose of the absence of any kind of restriction and limitations of the ruling state. There is a requirement to protect the freedom through the constitutional and by way of other legal provisions. The freedom is followed by various other freedoms such as the freedom to conduct the scientific research, freedom to publish and print the reality through which the laws could stretch in accordance to the laws framed in accordance to the constitutional.[16] The freedom of speech and expression and the freedom of press and media have been under the same roof of the right to freedom which would grant equal opportunity  and equality of treatment of the individuals. The freedom to express one’s thoughts ideas and expression freely without any fear.

Media trial is one of the important phrases used in 20th century and 21st century. The phrase shall refer to describe the impact of media within the society. This would emphasize the impact of the newspapers and television in judging the character and reputation of the person before the person’s guilt has been proven in the court of law.

With the advancement of the technology there are new gadgets of the information and communication technology internet websites and social media sites. The individuals have now have access to every small information and issues through the help of these gadgets of the information and communication technology.[17] In earlier times about 100 years prior people used to discuss the importance of the basic literacy and the impact upon the life of the human beings. But in today’s times we are living in the digital era and we discuss the digital literacy and the ways of accessing it so that all people should equal access to it. Thus in this way w maximum number of people could bring positive changes in the society, react and reach out to large number of people through the help of the technology. The ICT acts as an important tool for protecting, encouraging and creating awareness amongst the people of the ways to protect the human rights.



Cyberspace And Freedom Of Press

The word cyberspace was first used by William Gibson in the year 1984 in the famous novel “Neuromancer”.[18] It could be defined as the platform of interconnected digital technology. The cyberspace depicts what is actually real. This reality could be such as talking someone face to face, doing research work in the library, window shopping. This is the era of globalization in which all activities are being conducted online, nowadays marriages are taken place online, there are many colleges which are conducting online classes and also awarding the degrees online, there are many apps through which people could easily deliver food and things online without any hustle. The press plays an important role in the society. The freedom of press guarantees the necessary freedom to the media to decide the ways by which their programs will be telecasted and the ways by which they will conduct reporting. In the international arena the freedom of press is guaranteed through article 19 of the UDHR but the issue is that the meaning of freedom of press is not certain and at the same it is difficult to determine freedom for whom and freedom from what has to guaranteed.


Different Aspects Of Media Law

The media in India shall constitute different kinds of communication, information and broadcasting media. India has been leading producer of film and music. There are approximately around 70,000 newspapers and around 690 satellite channels in India.  India is one of the leading producer of newspapers all over the world and there has been approximately 100 million copies of newspapers which are being sold daily in the country.  Since the 18th century the impact of media in the society has been significant, the radio broadcasting had begun in the year 1927 and the first motion picture was telecasted in Bombay in July 1895. Indian media is one of the oldest and largest in the whole world.  The right to freedom has been granted to media since the history. This freedom was observed during the reign of Ashoka who had always followed the path of righteousness, openness, spirituality. It was in between the years 1975-77, when Indira Gandhi’s government was in power there has been restrictions and unreasonable limitations on the freedom imposed upon the media as the sign of vengeance.[19]

The use of printing press in India began on 5th September 1556 and it was first used in the college of St. Pauls in Goa.[20]  In the year 1780, the first newspaper in India was the Bengal Gazette. There are different newspapers such as the Indian Gazette, the Calcutta Gazette, the Madras Courier (1785), the Bombay Herald which had supplied information and news during the times of the British rule.

If we look into the history of the newspapers in India, it was the Bombay Samachar which was printed in the year 1882 in Gujarati, one of the oldest newspapers in Asia until now. On the other hand Bennett Coleman and company in the year 1838 had founded Times of India, and Journal of commerce. While the other newspapers of the Times group includes the Economic Times, Mumbai Mirror, Navbharat Times, Bangalore Mirror.[21]

Initially not much attention was paid towards radio broadcasting but it was in the year 1930 that radio broadcasting received the attention of the state and government assumed the control of the radio broadcasting and radio channel was named as “Akashvaani”. With respect to the telecasting of the Television programs only limited duration of the television program were telecasted in the year 199 while it was in the year 1965 that complete telecasting of the television program actually began. “Doordarshan” was the first and only television channel which was owned and controlled by the Ministry of Information and broadcasting existing prior to the economic reforms in the year 1991. The government of India took initiatives to regulate the education of the rural people through the help of the audio and visual media. The public service could now be paid special attention through the help of the Prasar Bharthi, which would be reflected through Prasar Bharthi Act. The media units within the Information and Broadcasting shall constitute the all in India radio and Doordarshan. It was on 16th November 2006 the government of India had released the community based radio policy for different groups such as the agriculture, educational institutions and civil society to apply for the license of the radio broadcasting. There is 100 watt effective radio power having the maximum height of around 30 metres for the community radio. The radio is for the community development purposes and license is granted for 5 years. The license granted is of nontransferable in nature and it was seen that  one person is granted with only one license. In the year 1968 it was the Tata group which had the largest number of software producers during that era. The evolution of microchip had proved that India could step the stairs of growth and development only through electronics and telecommunication. There have been technological

improvements which had been undertaken in the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited. The Indian government stressed on the schemes such as INDONET, NICNET and at the same time also stressed on the research oriented system of the education particularly known as the ERNET.[22]


The development of Media could be divided into various stages. The first stage is the age of formulation which had begun with the formulation of the Indian Telegraphs Act 1885 and the phase ended with the Report of the subcommittee on the communication, National Planning Committee on the communication. However post-independence the Media had developed on the large scale. However there is a clear distinction between the commercial and aesthetic experiences of the media which is generally of arbitrary in nature. In today’s times the mass media takes the lead and it exposes the reality of the different corners of the society. The media could be depicted as the mirror image of the society as it presents to us the true image of the society. It depicts the ultimate reality of the hardships faced by the people in the society. Nowadays there are many blogs which are the source of information to the people. The bloggers in reality are the real journalists as they are independent source of news in those countries in which media is facing with different kinds of censorship.[23] There is a need of recasting the role of media for promoting the social change. The role of media since the past, both before and after independence has changed, there are both positive as well as the negative aspects of media. The freedom of press has always remained the question of issue as one side there is freedom of speech and expression which has been provided and on the on the other side there are restrictions and limitations imposed upon the freedom of media.  Different political parties and the government in India frequently keep a watch over the activities of media in the changing situations of free and open communication. In the 19th century, in U.S.A media played the role of exciting anger and vengeance through the publishing sensational stories rather than supplementing information. It was during the World War II that restrictive style of reporting was much preferred and facts and information were properly rechecked before publication. Credibility was an important issue faced those days since the

information was collected from different anonymous sources, there was several spelling errors, several errors in facts and grammars, several biases faced either in the form of real or perceived, chances of plagiarism and manipulation was also high. It was in late 1990’s that 24 hours news channels came into picture and posed severe challenge to the newspapers which were the only source of news and information in those days. In the coming years Internet was developed and it posed further threat to the business of most newspapers in the developing countries. As a consequence of severe competition faced by news channels and Internet the newspapers faced decline in the paid circulation and the advertising revenue one of the source of newspapers income were shifted to new kinds of media thus leading to the decline in the profits of newspapers.[24] There were many newspapers which introduced the online platforms for the purpose of following their audience and stay ahead of them in knowing their preferences.

In India media comparatively greater freedom when compared to the other countries of the world. The article 19(1) of the Constitution of India is one of the important source of the media freedoms. But in the hanging times media has assumed the role of the “Public Court” or Janta Adalat and has also began to interfere in the proceedings of the court. It overlooks the thin line difference between the accused and convict thus completely disregarding the golden principles of the criminal law presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the proving of the guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Thus we can say that the media trial could be interpreted and defined as the separate trial conducted by the media which enables to form a public opinion prior much before the court takes the cognizance and finally convicts the accused. [25]This would create prejudice in the society which could form the wrong presumption about the person in the minds of people and judges. Not only this excessive publicity conducted by the media about a particular person would also further prejudices and the idea of fair trial is disrupted.


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