Agra/Mathura Jan 29 (IANS) The contribution of James Augustus Hickey, an Irishman, who laid the foundation and parameters of journalism in India through the columns of his weekly Bengal Gazette, the first Indian newspaper published from Kolkata Jan 29, 1779, was recalled by journalism students and senior scribes of the Taj city at a function.
Journalists said it was difficult to ignore the contribution of Hickey, whose anti-establishment writings and what some call “scandalous outbursts against the rulers of the day”, won him many admirers.
Ram Kishore, author and activist from Lucknow, said students of journalism can feel inspired by reading about this man who laid the foundation of journalism in our country.
Free press in India owes a debt of gratitude to James Augustus Hickey, the man who almost single-handedly faced the might of the British Empire in India to espouse the cause of free expression and reining in of the government by the voice of the people, exposing the actions of the government, and making public the dirty deals.
Former president of the Agra Press Club Rajiv Saxena said: “We should not forget Indian journalism’s baptism by fire and struggle. The media has to be sensitized and made aware of its immense responsibilities. The likes of Hickey beckon us to strive towards that end.”
Senior journalist Hemendra Chaturvedi said: “Hickey seems much more relevant today. The crusader and fighter that Hickey was, remains an inspiration to the new generation of journalists.”
Madhukar Pandit, writer, said Hickey was considered a highly eccentric Irishman.
His memoirist William Hickey tells us that James allowed Bengal Gazette “to become the channel of personal invective, and the most scurrilous abuse of individuals of all ranks, high and low, rich and poor, many were attacked in the most wanton and cruel manner”.
At a meeting in Mathura, local scribes said the growth of the media undoubtedly had been impressive, but some negative trends were cause for concern and alarm.
Pavan Gautam said our mass media has to be sensitized to the needs of the masses and should not remain glued to economic interests and ape the western media.