DVG's Expositions on Journalism as a Crusade and Press Freedom

This article is part 54 of 57 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

This progressive degeneration of Indian journalism in DVG’s own lifetime—by reducing its high standard as a sacred calling to a routine job and thereby destroying its worth as a profession as well—prompted him to note[1] that what “we need for our country is a Government of the people, not a Government of journalists.” Here, DVG, the Ekalavya surpasses his journalistic Dronacharya, W.T. Stead who wrote an influential tract[2] unambiguously titled, Government by Journalism, in which he openly called for editors and journalists to don the role of rulers.

The very conception of journalism as an instrument of government is foreign to the mind of most journalists. Yet, if they could but think of it, the editorial pen is a sceptre of power, compared with which the sceptre of many a monarch is but a gilded lath… In him are vested almost all the attributes of real sovereignty.

In hindsight, it can be argued that this idea germinated in Stead’s mind while he was serving a prison sentence in the notorious Eliza Armstrong case,[3] an expose which was also the highest watermark of his journalistic career. DVG describes Stead’s life in prison quite[4] movingly:

He bore the trials of prison-life with the cheerful fortitude of that comes naturally to a man of true, steadfast faith. From the very beginning full of spiritual longing and devotion to all that is godly…he grew more introspective in the solitude of the gaol and…conceived the idea of combining the Churches with newspapers in the work for the moral regeneration of the people…

Without diluting Stead’s deserved eminence, and purely with the benefit of more than a century of history, it can be said that Stead did harbor a pint of bitterness when he wrote his Government by Journalism. While that tract was equally influential, it simultaneously earned Stead the unflattering moniker: muckraker.

In his characteristic style, DVG broadly agrees with Stead that the “editorial pen is a spectre of power.” In fact, he goes a step further when he says that the “newspaper is a great weapon.” But it is a sacred weapon to be used for the well-being of the citizen. And then he delivers[5] another quotable quote: “the weapon must not induce stupor within its wielder,” and further notes how “this alarming development has already occurred in Europe and America. My fear and hope is that it must not occur in India as well.”


W.T. Stead’s monograph houses within itself perhaps the greatest danger built into journalism: activist crusade leading to unpredictable political upheavals and societal tumult. In this context, we can recall DVG’s warning[6] against political activism and agitation as substitutes for reasoned debate and forethought about long-term consequences. Indeed, he offers a sterner warning to journalists who think that journalism is some sort of crusade. The entire section[7] is worth reproducing at length.

Our youth are fired with the zeal to start newspapers. Their minds are enchanted with these grand dreams—let us sound the bugle of justice; let us condemn the officials who have the capacity to frighten the whole world; let us sit in public gatherings and show the sharp spike of our pen to the speech-giving mammoths…However, these youth don’t realise that this enchantment is merely a veil and that the stuff inside is far from being enchanting.

My routine response to any young person who approaches me for advice on becoming a journalist is “no.” The profession of journalism is fundamentally injurious. Those who wish to take it up and hope to succeed need to have enormous amounts of external and internal wealth. I have personally realized this truth after fifteen years of experiencing all varieties of travails. Anybody who sets out to offer knowledge and happiness to the world through this profession—no matter how enthusiastic he is—will undergo disappointment that is many times greater than his enthusiasm. He will then retreat from the profession cursing the same world he wanted to please.

At the risk of sounding trite, we notice yet again, how the realist and the pragmatist in DVG is wide awake to the foibles and pitfalls of his own profession. On the one side while DVG assigns the high status of philosophy to journalism, he also alerts us to the fate of failed philosophers, to extend the same metaphor. And then, he gives some guidelines for the honest and dogged aspirant of journalism in an extraordinary section[8] titled Kashtajivana, or the Hard Life.

A person may regard journalism as a sacred, lifelong vow, or regard it as a profession. But if he systematically pursues it with vision, insight, patience, and competence, he will become useful to the entire country. For such a pursuit, he must be willing to live the Hard Life. It is a profession that brings severe exhaustion. It constantly creates distress in the mind, and for this reason, the body also gets fatigued.

A journalist is akin to a solider or police who stay awake at night so that the city or town can sleep. The journalist must work by forgoing his own happiness so that the society can remain happy. He must be lost in thought and contemplation when his friends are having fun. When his peers are earning good amounts of money, he must be content with what he gets…

It is indeed easy to preach this lofty ideal but who said it is easy to live the ideal? This is the reason I don’t encourage youngsters to take up journalism. When he is new, the zeal which is natural to youth makes him forget the fatigue of this profession. After five or six years, it will inevitably induce boredom in any person…

In our country, this profession lacks the following: resources, money, books, research, relevant literature, printing facilities, sympathetic friends and support of the general public.[9] Amidst all this, the journalist’s family would have grown. His youth will be progressively declining, his strength, deteriorating, and his boredom, increasing.

If a young person unaware of all these, is brought into this profession, he will begin to regret his decision, and may choose unsavoury paths and hanker after profit and fame. It is also unsurprising if such a person eventually lets out this curse: “Neither do I need my countrymen nor do I want any Punya.”

If a good journalist becomes a national asset, a journalist who falls to disgrace because he is unable to be good, becomes a national threat.

Intertwined with DVG’s warning against the crusader and activist model of journalism is his brilliant chapter[10] on journalistic or press freedom. Independent India has indeed come a long way in this regard from the frequent press gags and the hawk-like watch over newspapers in the pre-Independence era. This journey is also marked by the highly regrettable and unconstitutional first Amendment of our Constitution [Article 19 (1)] which was bulldozed by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Parliament specifically to restrict press freedom. The reason was to throttle the stringent criticisms directed against him by the press. The first Amendment was also the first precedent where Parliament would bypass the verdict[11] of the Supreme Court by passing legislations specifically meant for circumvention. Ever since, our dominant political class since independence has liberally used Article 19 (1) to target or stifle critical voices emanating both from the press and outside of it. It is thankfully, largely a thing of the past now. However, what we have today—especially after the advent of the Internet—is absolute freedom of the press of the worst kind.

DVG’s exposition encompasses both these aspects.

We can begin with the second point first: about the absolute or more accurately, unhinged freedom of the press we have at present. The nakedly heinous and vulgar public discourse that has become so commonplace in what passes off as journalism today is repeatedly justified as the “freedom that the press/media enjoys.” Embedded in that justification is a demand for immunity against unaccountability. DVG puts press freedom[12] in perspective:

Nobody should forget the fact that press freedom is the same right that all citizens enjoy, and that the press is not granted a special freedom. If he does not become dependent on an external power, the full benefit of press freedom will accrue to all citizens…

Newspapers are not greater than the citizen…In fact, the informed citizen is the greatest constraint and the most powerful watchdog of newspapers.

DVG notes that the press is also subject to the same penal laws that are applicable to all Indian citizens and that it must behave responsibly and fairly in order to maintain this freedom. Alongside, he says that while the press must play the role of a watchdog of the Government, it must not become its adversary. In DVG’s words, the duty of a newspaper is not merely to question but to do something higher than mere questioning. If this is not done fairly and fearlessly, the “national life of our country will be akin to living with a permanent lie in our domestic lives.”[13] DVG traces the logical conclusion[14] of all such failures:   

If there is no Government that gives space for a truly independent paper run on these ideals of fairness and accountability, there will emerge papers that will favour such a Government. These are words from my experience.

More fundamentally, he asks and answers a question[15] inextricably linked with press freedom among other crucial aspects using his patented allegorical style:

The hotelier prepares items that people demand. Whether it is harmful to health or no is not his concern. What he needs is business, money and profit. The matter of health is left to the doctor.

The question before newspapers is similar: should they follow the popular trends of the people? Or should they uplift the people?

If national well-being and progress is the paper’s chief objective, it must not rest with giving the fashionable to the people. On the contrary, it must provoke and inspire people to read the material which will elevate and ennoble them. The greatest responsibility of newspapers is to stimulate knowledge and wisdom. This is true national service.

To be continued


[1]D.V. Gundappa. Sankeerna, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 11, Government of Karnataka, p 171.

[2] W. T. Stead. Government by Journalism, The Contemporary Review, Vol. 49, May, 1886, pp. 653-674.

[3] The Eliza Armstrong case was a massive scandal that erupted in England in the late 19th century uncovering widespread child prostitution that flourished most notably in London. W.T. Stead in his capacity as the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, wrote a four-part series sensationally headlined, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. It was a detailed investigative report on this social evil and sent shockwaves throughout England. To demonstrate the truth of his findings, Stead and his team arranged to “purchase” a 13-year-old girl, Eliza Armstrong, daughter of an impoverished chimney-sweep. The first instalment of this series was sold out in record numbers and was traded in the black market for twenty times the original price of the copy. Stead’s daring feat was enormously influential. George Bernard Shaw named his lead character in Pygmalion as Eliza Dolittle. The expose also resulted in the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, also known as Stead’s Act. However, it also landed Stead in jail because his detractors caught hold of a technical law point: that he had failed to actually secure the permission of Eliza’s father for the aforementioned “purchase.” See, for example: Gretchen Soderlund. William T. Stead and the Soul of Sensationalism in Sex Trafficking, Scandal, and the Transformation of Journalism, 1885-1917. University of Chicago Press, pp 24 – 66.

[4] D.V. Gundappa. W.T. Stead: Our Journalistic Ancestor. Selected Writings of D.V. Gundappa (in four volumes). Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Bangalore, 2019-2020, p 335.

[5]D.V. Gundappa. Sankeerna, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 11, Government of Karnataka, p 171.

[6] See Chapter 7

[7] D.V. Gundappa. Sankeerna, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 11, Government of Karnataka, p 180.

[8] Ibid. p 184. Emphasis added.

[9] This extract is from the aforementioned Presidential speech at Bagalkot that DVG delivered in 1928. As such, this specific paragraph should be read keeping that period in mind.

[10] Titled, Vruttapatrika Swatantrya: Literally, “Freedom of Newspapers.” Sankeerna, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 11, Government of Karnataka, p 189-98.

[11] For the full verdict, see: Romesh Thappar vs The State Of Madras on 26 May, 1950. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/456839/

[12] D.V.Gundappa. Sankeerna, DVG Krutishreni, Vol 11, Government of Karnataka, p 190, 192. Emphasis added.

[13] Ibid. p 248

[14] Ibid. p 238

[15] Ibid. pp 273-4




Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

Indian Perspective of Truth and Beauty in Homer’s Epics is a unique work on the comparative study of the Greek Epics Iliad and Odyssey with the Indian Epics – Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Homer, who laid the foundations for the classical tradition of the West, occupies a stature similar to that occupied by the seer-poets Vālmīki and Vyāsa, who are synonymous with the Indian culture. The author...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the sixth volume of reminiscences character sketches of prominent public figures, liberals, and social workers. These remarkable personages hailing from different corners of South India are from a period that spans from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Written in Kannada in the 1970s, these memoirs go...

An Introduction to Hinduism based on Primary Sources

Authors: Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh, Hari Ravikumar

What is the philosophical basis for Sanātana-dharma, the ancient Indian way of life? What makes it the most inclusive and natural of all religio-philosophical systems in the world?

The Essential Sanātana-dharma serves as a handbook for anyone who wishes to grasp the...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...