Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

‘Hicky’s Bengal Gazette’: India’s First Newspaper


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: 'Hicky’s Bengal Gazette' and related facts

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • World Press Freedom Day, observed annually on May 3, underscores the significance of journalism in society, tracing its roots back to pivotal moments in history.
  • Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, founded by James Augustus Hicky in 1780, marked the inception of Indian journalism, serving as a platform for social discourse and political critique.

Who was James Augustus Hicky?

  • Born in Ireland in the 1730s, James Augustus Hicky ventured to India, then known as the “Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire“, in search of better opportunities.
  • Faced with initial setbacks, including debts that led to his imprisonment, Hicky demonstrated resilience by setting up a printing press within the jail premises.

Establishment of ‘Hicky’s Bengal Gazette’:

  • ‘Hicky’s Bengal Gazette’ was the first newspaper ever published in India (indeed in Asia), with its inaugural edition released on January 29, 1780.
  • Hicky served as its founder-editor, aiming to cater primarily to the European community in Calcutta.
  • He initially focusing on local issues such as road repairs and maintenance.
  • The newspaper later delved into broader societal concerns, including government corruption and civic issues.
  • Despite its reputation for gossip and salacious content, the Gazette also published articles critical of the British East India Company and advocated for infrastructure development and sanitation improvements.
  • Hicky’s newspaper was printed once a week on Saturday, and retailed for Rs 1.
  • Its circulation was estimated to be around 400 copies per week, although possibly more.

Challenges and Legal Battles:

  • The Gazette faced legal challenges, including multiple libel lawsuits filed by prominent figures such as Governor General Warren Hastings in 1780s and missionary Johann Zacharias Kiernander.
  • He described Hastings in an article as being Robert Clive’s “miserable successor”.
  • Hicky’s bold stance against powerful figures, including scathing critiques of Hastings’ expansion policies, led to his imprisonment and financial ruin due to legal fees and penalties.
  • The publication was ceased on 30 March 1782.

Legacy and Impact:

  • Despite its eventual closure due to legal pressure and financial constraints, ‘Hicky’s Bengal Gazette’ left an indelible mark on Indian journalism.
  • Hicky’s pioneering efforts laid the groundwork for the development of a vibrant media landscape in India, inspiring subsequent generations of journalists and press pioneers.
  • The Gazette’s brief but impactful existence demonstrated the power of the press in advocating for societal change and holding the powerful to account.


[2020] The Vital-Vidhwansak, the first monthly journal to have the untouchable people as its target audience was published by:

(a) Gopal Baba Walangkar

(b) Jyotiba Phule

(c) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

(d) Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

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