James Augustus Hicky began printing the Bengal Gazette or Original Calcutta General Advertiser on January 29, 1780. The Bengal Gazette was Asia's First Newspaper published in Calcutta, then capital of British India. Hicky, an Irishman, had previously spent two years in jail for debt and was a ferocious critic of Warren Hastings and his methods of governance. Initially, the newspaper maintained a neutral policy, and his newspaper went with the slogan, "Open to all Parties, but Influenced by None", however, after coming to know that East India Company (EIC) was planning to launch a rival newspaper India Gazette, Hicky changed his editorial stance.
No Topic Was Taboo
The newspaper, under Hicky, did not consider any subject a taboo for publishing. It printed everything from Governor-General Warren Hastings erectile dysfunction to the top Army Commander's harem; everything found a column in the newspaper. The newspaper became a sensation in Calcutta for covering wide-ranging stories on poor sanitation. It worked to expose all the sinful works that the British often tried to push under the carpet. Hicky's writing style was sarcastic and provocative. The weekly English newspaper pushed Indians to print their newspapers as well.
Types Seized On SC's Order
Though Bengal Gazette had a short lifespan of two years only, it had made its mark. The newspaper shut down because Hicky had accused Simeon Droz, an East India Company employee, of supporting the rival India Gazette due to Hicky's refusal to pay a bribe to Droz and Marian Hastings or better known as Mrs Warren Hastings. On order by the Supreme Court, Bengal Gazette stopped its publication when its types were seized.
Hicky's media stint might not have been successful, but it published about topics and issues that mattered and served society. The initial objective of remaining neutral could not last long, but the message of fearless journalism and voicing out strong opinions against oppressors made their way to people's hearts.