Digital media not part of new press bill yet: Anurag Thakur

Updated on Sep 26, 2022 06:10 AM IST

“There is no (such) idea until now to include digital media under the new bill,” Thakur said in an interview with HT on Friday. Indicating that the bill is still a work in progress, he said such clarity will only emerge after it is introduced. “We will only get to know once the bill comes.”

The government has not yet decided to include digital media under the upcoming draft legislation on the press, Anurag Thakur said. (PTI)
The government has not yet decided to include digital media under the upcoming draft legislation on the press, Anurag Thakur said. (PTI)
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The government has not yet decided to include digital media under the upcoming draft legislation on the press and periodicals, information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said. The central government has been working on the bill since 2019 to update a colonial era law overseeing the registration of newspapers and periodicals.

“There is no (such) idea until now to include digital media under the new bill,” Thakur said in an interview with HT on Friday. Indicating that the bill is still a work in progress, he said such clarity will only emerge after it is introduced. “We will only get to know once the bill comes.”

The Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill was first introduced in 2019. The Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2022, was listed during the monsoon session of Parliament, but was not tabled. The new bill will replace the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867.

There are close to 140,000 newspapers and periodicals registered under the existing law, the minister said. Registration is important/mandatory because grants a legal status to the paper and sets out a series rules and conditions that it must conform to or face penalties.

The major focus of the new bill will be on increasing the ease of doing business and decriminalisation of earlier provisions, Thakur said.

“We are thinking on the lines of registration of newspapers should be done online rather than going to the deputy commissioner or the DM (district magistrate) at the district where there is a lot of steps, first come to the DM level, then the central level, then again to the DM,” Thakur said.

The ministry was trying to make it much easier for the newspapers, he said. “The second is that the law is from 1867, so pre-independence time a printing machine or a printing press might be of lot of importance, that what will be published and where will it go. Nowadays that concern is lesser,” Thakur said.

Speaking about decriminalization, Thakur said it is an area of importance not only for the ministry but for the government. “If you look at the changes made to the Companies Act, it is in that direction itself. And majority of departments and ministries are making such changes to decriminalize rules,” he said. “Similarly, in I&B we are taking such steps.”

The central government was considering civil penalties in place of criminal action provided for in the previous bill, HT reported earlier. “If you, as a newspaper, have not filed returns, should you be sent to jail?” Thakur asked. “As the processes shift online, it will bring more transparency and have a major impact (on the industry).”

As far as online news media was concerned, it is covered under the new intermediary and digital media guidelines introduced by the government in February last year. The guidelines require platforms to appoint grievance redressal officers in case of over-the-top platforms and digital news media platforms, and institute a three-tier mechanism for grievance redressal, at the company and industry levels with an interministerial committee at its apex. It gives the information and broadcasting ministry takedown powers over the content circulated online.

They further provide for a voluntary registration of online news websites and channels, nearly 3,000 of which have already shared the requisite details with the government. The guidelines have been challenged by several stakeholders including Live Law, Foundation for Independent Journalism and Quint Digital Media Limited.

If found in violation of the rules, digital news channels and websites can be banned under section 69(A) of the IT Act, which authorises the government to take down channels that endanger the sovereignty and integrity of India, or threaten public order.

Since December 2021, the government has blocked nearly 94 YouTube channels, 19 social media accounts and 747 URLs for “acting against India”. During the monsoon session of Parliament, Thakur said that government has “strongly acted against agencies working against the sovereignty of the country by spreading fake news and propaganda on internet”.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, February 03, 2023
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals