Face-to-face communication was the order of the day in primitive society, when feudal states expanded and empires began to emerge the monarchs had to devise new techniques of communication in order to maintain contact with people inhabiting the far-flung areas of the empire. The Pharos of ancient Egypt inscribed stories of their exploits and texts of laws on the walls of temples visited annually by thousands of pilgrims haling from distant regions. The Indian Emperor Ashoka, the Great, set up edicts enumerating good qualities of Buddhism and laws to be followed by the people.

In Islamic society, mosque played a very important role in communication, both secular and spiritual. In the first instance, this represented an instrument for face-to-face communication. When the Islamic State assumed dimensions, a news organisation was established with the chief at the headquarters, served by a large number of news writers functioning in provincial capitals sending their newsletters speedily through an efficient system of horse-posts and camel- posts and in some still more speedily through the system of pigeon-post. Constantly informed of latest developments everywhere the caliphs were in a position to take corrective measures for the amelioration of the masses.

News meant to be conveyed to the people was transmitted through the pulpit of the mosques. The Mughal Emperors of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent streamlined the system. The news for the common man was transmitted through couriers to far-flung areas which was announced by the beat of the drum. The re was an elaborate system for the communication of the news of interest to the elite. All newsletters were read in the royal court full of nobles and other men who mattered. The vakils or delegates of the nobles and sirdars stationed in regions away from the metropolis used to take down notes, compile newsletter and send the same to their clients.

When the Mughal Empire began to disintegrate, the news organisations too began to disappear but to satisfy the news hunger of men who mattered a class of private news-writers emerged. They compiled manuscript newspapers, prepared copies and distributed among customers for a small price.

When printing was introduced, the pattern of communication underwent a basic change. In the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent as well as in other Asian lands under subjugation, printed newspapers developed in an almost similar fashion, first appeared the English language newspapers for the European settlers. They were followed by newspapers in local languages sponsored by foreign missionaries with the object of spreading Christianity and convincing the local inabitants of the superiority of Western culture and achievements in the domain of knowledge.

Soon there was a reaction to that. Some conscientious local inhabitants sponsored newspapers in order to defend their faiths against the onslaught of Christianity, counter-act the propaganda of missionaries and to resist pressures of foreign culture. The controversy thus generated widened the newspaper readership though to a very limited extent as the cost of production was high resulting in a high price, the advertisements were non-existent and to cap all there were stringent press restrictions.

A struggle for the freedom of the press culminated in success in 1835. The litho method of printing Urdu newspapers introduced soon after brought down the cost of production. Urdu became the court language. These factors played a considerable role in the emergence of an Urdu Press, though still confined to weeklies, with its main centres at Delhi and Lahore and minor centres in various parts of the sub-continent.

These papers promoted education and literature, gave more emphasis on local and national coverage and published articles on scientific developments abroad. They reflected public opinion but in a very subdued fashion. The British Prosecutor in the trial of Bahadur Shah after the failure of the National Struggle for Freedom in 1857, said that it was the conspiracy of the Press and Palace that brought about the great rebellion but it goes without saying that native language press was very feeble on the eve of the struggle.

Its total circulation was a little more than five thousand throughout the subcontinent making a total readership of about fifty thousand. The most widely-circulated ! Urdu newspaper was “Koh-i-Noor” of Lahore that printed 349 copies of. each issue in the hey-day of its glory. Newspaper reading was still a luxury as one had to spend rupees two a month on a Weekly which only the most well-to-do persons could afford. Even this feeble press, particularly the segment owned by Muslims, was obliterated during and immediately after the 1857 struggle.