I&B ministry proposes bill to regulate digital media outlets, lists it for monsoon session

Updated on Jul 16, 2022 12:52 PM IST

“The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2022, seeks to replace the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867," the ministry said in a statement. 

As of now, the digital media is not regulated by the Union ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B), but can voluntarily register with the ministry as per the new IT rules introduced last year. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
As of now, the digital media is not regulated by the Union ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B), but can voluntarily register with the ministry as per the new IT rules introduced last year. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi

A bill to regulate digital media outlets — making them liable for violations that apply to print media — has been listed for the upcoming monsoon session, according to a statement by Lok Sabha secretariat on Friday.

As of now, the digital media is not regulated by the Union ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B), but can voluntarily register with the ministry as per the new IT rules introduced last year. The publishers will now have to register with the Press Registrar General, persons in the know of the matter said.

“The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2022 seeks to replace the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867 by decriminalisation of the existing Act, keeping the procedures of the extant Act simple from the view point of medium/small publishers, and uphold the values of Press Freedom,” the statement read.

The bill is also likely to decriminalise provisions of the PRB Act, 1867, which currently covers news media. “It will do away with the provisions, violation of which can lead to imprisonment,” one of the persons citied above said.

The ministry of information and broadcasting has amended the Cable Television Network Act and proposed draft amendments to the Cinematograph Act to ensure they are not at odds with the new social media and intermediary guidelines and digital media code ethics, which were notified by the government under the Information Technology Act in February last year to bring the erstwhile unregulated digital platforms under a three-tier grievance redressal system.

The new intermediary and digital media guidelines require platforms to appoint grievance redressal officers in case of OTT (over-the-top) and digital news media platforms, constitute a three-tier mechanism for grievance redressal with an inter-ministerial committee at its apex, and give the I&B ministry takedown powers over the content circulated online.

The government’s oversight mechanism, however, will also contain members from industry bodies such as FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry), CII (Confederation of Indian Industry)and the Press Council. The rules have been challenged in the court by several digital news media outfits, including LiveLaw and TheWire, and has been stayed by multiple high courts.

The bill proposes to do away with the existing procedure of furnishing of declaration by publishers/ printers before the district magistrate and its subsequent authentication. “The process of title and registration of periodicals including newspapers is proposed to be effected centrally by the Press Registrar General as a simultaneous process,” the bill states on the ministry’s website.

The bill further enables the central and the state government to frame appropriate rules/ regulations to regulate the criteria/ conditions for issuing government advertisements in newspapers, accreditation of newspapers and such other facilities for newspapers. “The Bill proposes to have a simple system of registration of e-papers,” it adds.

Additionally, a bill to modernise and democratise administration of cantonments, a legislation to rationalise government’s role and enable cooperative societies to “compete in the new economic environment”, and a proposed law to turn NITIE (National Institute of Industrial Engineering) Mumbai into IIM (Indian Institutes of Management) Mumbai will also be part of the government’s legislative agenda for the upcoming session that starts from July 18.

The Cantonment bill will be one of the 24 new bills that the government plans to bring in this session.

The government will bring bills to further amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the Competition Bill. It also wants to amend The Wild Life (Protection) laws and bring The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

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