Digital news to be regulated in India as GoI revives its 2019 legislation plan

A newspaper hawker sells newspapers in Srinagar, Kashmir. [FPK File Photo]

New Delhi: The government of India is reviving its 2019 plan to introduce legislation that will replace the archaic Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867.

The proposed bill is a “new registration regime” for newspapers but will also include India’s digital news media industry. Digital news sites could face action for “violations”, which include canceled registration or penalty, if the bill is cleared.

The Information and Broadcasting ministry has started the process to amend the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill and include “news on digital media through any electronic device” in its ambit, NDTV reported.

Digital news publishers have to apply for registration and will be required to do so within 90 days of the law coming into effect.

Digital publishers will need to register with the Press Registrar General, who will have powers to act against various publications for violations and who can suspend or cancel registrations and impose penalties, the report said.

An appellate board is planned with the Chairperson of the Press Council of India as its chief, the report said quoting officials.

Digital media has never been under any law or regulation so far. The amendments will bring digital media under the control of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry as the administrative ministry.

The Bill has yet to be approved by the Prime Minister’s Office and other stakeholders, the report said quoting sources.

In 2019, the GoI’s move to put out a draft bill that defined news on digital media as news in digitized format that can be transmitted over the internet, computer or mobile networks and includes text, video, audio and graphics”, caused an uproar as it was seen to be an attempt to control the digital news media.

The Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill will replace the British-era Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, which regulators newspapers and printing presses in India.


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