October 6, 2023

The most important fundamental right guaranteed to citizens by our Indian Constitution is the freedom of speech and expression. The media is considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy and is essential to the social, political, economic, and foreign affairs of a nation. Therefore, it should go without saying that a free press is necessary for a democracy to exist, prosper, and maintain the values of ethical and transparent governance.

Freedom of Press: Meaning

The freedom to express oneself as one pleases without seeking prior legal authorization is referred to as having freedom of the press.

Regarding any form of communication, including print media (newspapers, magazines, journals, reports), audio (radio, podcasts), video (news channels, OTT platforms like YouTube), and other electronic mediums such as news apps, social media feeds, etc., freedom of the press relates to the limited interference of the state in the functioning of the press.

Article 19 (1) (a): Constitution of India

Enabling citizens to express opinions in favor of or against the actions of the government, stimulates independent media and fosters democracy.

The rights granted by the Constitution of India under Article 19(1)(a) protect the right to freedom of speech, and are referred to as freedom of the press or media implicitly.

When Dr. B R Ambedkar responds to a question in the constituent Assembly about “Article 19 not including “freedom of the press”,” he says that the press is just another way of citing an individual citizen whenever anyone decides to write in a newspaper, they simply exercising their right of expression. Therefore, there is absolutely no requirement to explicitly mention “freedom of the press” anywhere in the Indian Constitution.

Scope of Article 19 (1) (a): Constitution of India

Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution provides the freedom-

  • To circulate information- The freedom of the press is worthless without this freedom. The case of Romesh Thapar v State of Madras makes freedom of the press explicit, despite the fact that it is also implied in the freedom of expression. The primary distinction between freedom of the press and freedom of expression for an individual is that the former allows for publications on a variety of media, including print, broadcast, electronic, etc., while the latter allows for mass communication. As a result, the freedom of dissemination of knowledge is essential to journalistic freedom.
  • To receive any information without any restriction- The foundation of the press is freedom. Lack of information restricts the press from enlightening the public and considers the right to free speech futile because there is no access to the information that can serve as the foundation for any expression.
  • To voice criticisms-The press has the freedom to express disapproval of the government, its employees, its policies, its conduct, its laws, etc., just like citizens do. The press cannot, however, misuse this freedom by inciting the general public to oppose the government or by supporting riots, insurrections, mutinies, or other threats to the national security of the state.
  • To outline the proceedings in the Court-The Supreme Court in the case of Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd v SEBI ruled that the media has a right to report on legal proceedings. Similarly, the Supreme Court in the case of Saroj Iyer v Maharashtra Medical (Council) of Indian Medicine ruled that the right to publish precise records of the court procedures one has observed exists even when doing so in defiance of quasi-judicial tribunals.
  • To broadcast- The power to broadcast is crucial in the modern era of technology because it is one of the primary means for the dissemination of information. This freedom extends to online content like websites, blogs, and mobile applications as well as broadcasting on radio and television news programs. Websites like Quint, Indian Express and The Print have shown us the essence of truthful journalism.
  • To serve as a platform for advertisement- Whether it be a radio station, news channel, smartphone application, or newspaper, they rely heavily on revenue from advertisements. The Supreme Court included the right to advertisement as an aspect of the right to freedom of expression following the case of Tata Press v Mahanagar Telephone Nigam.

Article 19 (2): Constitution of India

Every right comes with certain restrictions and limitations. Since freedom backfires and causes individual rights to collide with one another, liberty without any reasonable limitations inevitably undermines the exact goal of establishing that freedom in the very first place, which is to strengthen the individual.

The Indian Constitution provides freedom of the press, albeit with appropriate limitations underlined in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India. In India, some of the reasonable limitations are as follows-

  • The press is not permitted to publish any information that damages or disparages the reputation and goodwill of any person or group.
  • Press information that could endanger national security or sovereignty, create disturbance in the community, or promote violence is prohibited.
  • Anything that could cause a violation of public order or disrupt peace in the community is prohibited from publication by the press.
  • The press is not permitted to disseminate information that harms public morality or dignity.
  • Press information that is disrespectful to a judge or contempt of court is not permitted to be published.

Freedom of Press: Significance

  • Forum of Ideas and Opinions- The press offers a forum for the interchange of ideas and opinions that should be heard by every individual across the country and encourages individuals to think critically and beyond the confines of their own minds.
  • Ensuring the delivery of timely Justice- People frequently strive to hide their behavior and resolve a case without involving the press in it. Such incidents are brought to light by the press, which also ensures that justice is properly delivered with the support of the general public.
  • Acts as the people’s voice- The press serves as an interface via which the opinions of the vast majority of people are written and expressed. It concentrates on problems that are overlooked and brings up the issues that deserve to be addressed.
  • Fourth Foundation of Democracy- Along with the legislative, executive, and judiciary, the press can be seen as the fourth foundation of democracy because it is an independent body that has the power to oppose the government.


The freedom of the press enjoys the same rights as those of regular citizens. The press is seen as a strong, resilient force in today’s globalized society for transmitting news and information worldwide. The press plays more active roles in responsible journalism than only disseminating news to the public through print and broadcast. The press has the ability to shape public opinion and society’s collective state of mind.

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