Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni on Friday assured leading editors that the government would consider amendment to the Indian Penal Code which at present provides for criminal defamation and imposing of jail sentences on journalists.
Soni told the Executive Committee of the Editor's Guild, which met her, that she would pass on the guild's suggestions to Law Minster Veerappa Moily.
The Law Minister had given an assurance that a solution would be found for decriminalising defamation provision. The editors asked Soni for abolition of the existing criminal defamation law, which they said was being outdated, a source of harassment to journalists and a cause of disproportionate penalties on journalists.
They argued that the civil defamation law was sufficient. It was pointed out to the Minister that many countries including Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and the United States have decriminalised defamation laws. The Guild also raised questions about the proposed changes to the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867.
It also demanded a review of the changes, approved recently by the Cabinet, to the Act. In a statement, the guild said that it believes that the purpose should be to make the changes more liberal and less intrusive. A proposed amendment contemplated at present by the government suggests that failure to file the required information or filing of a false declaration could lead to suspension of a publication or the closure of the printing press for 30 days.
Among the editors who met Soni were Guild President T N Ninan (Business Standard), Sanjoy Narayan (Hindustan Times), Rajdeep Sardesai (CNN-IBN), M K Razdan (PTI) and Mrinal Pandey (Prasar Bharti).