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Editors Guild Raises Concern Over Press Bill’s Implications on Media Freedom and Calls for Review

The Editors Guild of India has expressed deep apprehension regarding certain “stringent authorities” granted by the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill. These authorities empower the government to conduct more invasive and arbitrary oversight into the operations of newspapers and magazines. In an official statement, the Guild has called for the Press and Registration of Periodicals (PRP) Bill, intended to replace the Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867, to be submitted to a Parliamentary Select Committee. The Guild has cited concerns over the increased powers of the Press Registrar, new limitations on citizens’ ability to publish periodicals, the continuation of authority to enter news publication premises, the ambiguity present in many provisions, and the potential negative implications on press freedom arising from the authority to establish rules.

The Guild has communicated its worries about the Bill to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, political party leaders, and Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur.

Given the broad and discretionary utilization of laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) – which defines terms like “terrorist act” and “unlawful activity” – as well as other criminal statutes like sedition against journalists and media entities to stifle freedom of speech, the Guild finds the introduction of these new provisions disconcerting. It is concerned that such provisions could be misused to hinder the right to publish news publications for individuals critical of governing bodies.

The Guild asserts that solely the Press Registrar should possess relevant authority for the purpose of this Act, and no other government entity should be endowed with any powers pertaining to periodical registration. Emphasizing that the legal framework should be more respectful of press freedom and should refrain from granting extensive powers to regulatory bodies to arbitrarily interfere with or shut down the press, the Guild underscores that the primary focus of the Registrar and the PRP should remain on “registration” rather than “regulation”. The PRP Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 1 and was passed two days later.

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