The Guild alleges that the bill gives more power to the Press Registrar General overseeing the publishing of periodicals.
The Editors Guild of India has voiced concerns over the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023. In a statement, the NPO of editors across India said that the new bill contains draconian provisions and is deeply distressed by it.
The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on August 3. It will replace the existing legislation that governs the registration of the print and publishing industry.
The bill allows the Press Registrar General to impose penalties for publishing without registration up to Rs. 5 lakh. The failure to present the annual statement within a specified time will attract up to Rs 20,000 first time. It also adds a requirement for publishers to take prior approval of the Central Government for publication of copies of foreign periodicals in India.
A person convicted for “an offence involving a terrorist act or unlawful activity” or “for having done anything against the security of the State” will not be allowed to publish a periodical.
In its statement, EGI said, “The Guild is concerned about the expansion of powers of the Press Registrar, the new restrictions on citizens to bring out periodicals, the continuation of power to enter premises of news publications, the vagueness inherent in many of the provisions, and the ambiguity surrounding power to frame rules that can have adverse implications on press freedom."
The Guild raised concerns that the bill allows the government power over the press beyond the Press Registrar, it denies and cancels the publications of people convicted of unlawful activities, and gives power to the authorities to enter the premises of publications.
The Guild informs that it has written to the government to ensure that the publishing of news remains free of intrusive checks by the registrar. It also points out that the registrar's role should be restricted to registration and not expanded to a regulatory role, as it threatens the freedom of press.