Emergency, 49 years on: How Indian and foreign newspapers covered the nation’s darkest chapter in 1975 | A flashback

After the imposition of an emergency in 1975, around 200 journalists, including foreign correspondents, were arrested. For two days, newspapers were not published. The Indian Express, headed by Ramnath Goenka, ran a blank editorial on June 28 as a mark of protest against the media censorship.

Arshdeep kaur
First Published25 Jun 2024, 07:25 AM IST
On June 26, 1975, the Indian government passed a law which said that 'malicious' and 'scurrilous' articles in newspapers would be prevented.
On June 26, 1975, the Indian government passed a law which said that ’malicious’ and ’scurrilous’ articles in newspapers would be prevented.(PIB)

During the customary remarks ahead of the commencement of the 18th Lok Sabha on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the country needs an opposition with "substance" and "not slogans". The PM termed the Emergency as a "black spot" in the country's history. Today is the Emergency's 49th anniversary.

On 25 June 1975, at midnight, the then-President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, declared a state of emergency in India on the "advice" of then-PM Indira Gandhi. It remained in effect until March 21, 1977.

Also Read | PM Modi takes dig at Oppn, remembers 1975 Emergency as ’black spot’ | 10 quotes

While reports of human rights violations during the period have been widely circulated and debated, the most crucial aspect of the period was the censorship of the press. PM Indira Gandhi-led government clamped down on the media, and made all efforts to curb the freedom of the Press.

On 26 June 1975, the Indian government passed a law to "prevent malicious and scurrilous" articles in newspapers. The government also moved to shut the Press Council of India.

Around 200 journalists, including foreign correspondents, were arrested. For two days, no newspaper was published in the country.  It was only on June 28 that the newspapers were published again.

Also Read | Rajnath Singh recalls Emergency: ‘No parole to attend my mother’s last rites’

How did the media cover imposition of Emergency in 1975?

The Indian Express, headed by Ramnath Goenka, was then one of the largest dailies in the capital. The Indian Express, headed by Ramnath Goenka, ran a blank editorial on June 28 as a mark of protest against the media censorship.

Some other dailies like the Statesman also followed this.

Another prominent newspaper, The Hindu, ran the lead story "President Proclaims National Emergency" with the slugs "Security of India Threatened by Internal Disturbances" and "Preventive Arrests: Press Censorship Imposed."

Thakur V Hari Prasad-led Indian Herald ran the lead headline as "'Emergency Declared' JP, Morarji, Advani, Asoka Mehta & Vajpayee arrested".

The New York Times published the news of the Emergency in its June 27 edition, headlined "A Shift by India."

TIME magazine discussed the event in its July edition. It ran an article titled "INDIA: Indira Gandhi’s Dictatorship Digs In."

"Strict censorship has prevented the once lively Indian press (some 830 daily newspapers) from printing anything other than official handouts about the crisis," its correspondent William Stewart wrote.

Also Read | Kangana Ranaut’s Emergency movie postponed again

How did Indira tackle pressure from world leaders?

After the imposition of the Emergency, Indira Gandhi faced mounting pressure from world leaders. On June 27, 1975, according to The Indian Express, she sent personalised cables to several of these leaders explaining why she was "compelled" to take the step.

The letters were crafted by Gandhi's secretary, PN Dhar, and information advisor HY Sharada Prasad. Later in July 1975, she gave interviews to The Observer and the Sunday Times.

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First Published:25 Jun 2024, 07:25 AM IST
HomeNewsIndiaEmergency, 49 years on: How Indian and foreign newspapers covered the nation’s darkest chapter in 1975 | A flashback

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