The Center is for the first time preparing a bill to regulate digital news media. Read here

The Government of India is preparing a bill to revive the Press and Periodicals Registration Bill, 2019 which will include the digital media industry for the first time. The newspaper registration scheme is intended to replace the Book Registration Act 1867, which covers the scope of newspapers and printing presses in India.

The digital media industry has been exempt from government regulations for so long, something the Narendra Modi-led government wants to change through the bill it will introduce in the upcoming monsoon session of parliament.

What is the Press and Book Registration Act 1867?

This law was passed by the British Empire after the First War of Independence in 1857. This 152-year-old law was introduced to restrict freedom of expression, through the press, during the revolt.

What is the Press and Periodicals Registration Bill 2019

According to several media, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which will be the “administrative ministry”, has started the process of amending the draft law on registration of the press and periodicals to include “information on digital media via any electronic device”.

If the bill passes, digital news websites operating in India will be on par with newspapers, and they will have to register with the Registrar General of Press, the equivalent of the Registrar of Newspapers in India.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Prime Minister’s Office and other stakeholders.

Digital news publishers must apply for registration and must do so within 90 days of the law coming into effect.

In 2019, the Center published a bill that defined “digital media information” as “information in digitized format that may be transmitted over the Internet, computer or mobile networks and includes text, audio, video and graphics”.

Digital publishers will need to register with the Registrar General of the Press, who will have the power to take action against various publications for violations and who may suspend or cancel registrations and impose penalties.

An appeal board is planned with the president of the Press Council of India as the head, officials say.

Controversy over new digital media bill

When the bill was proposed, it sparked controversy as many argued it was the Center’s attempt to “control” digital news media. The central government at the time went no further with the bill.

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