Editors Guild express concern over 'draconian powers' in PRP Billtext_fields
New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India on Sunday expressed grave worries about some of the "draconian powers" in the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill. They claim that it gives the government authority to have more intrusive and arbitrary checks on the operation of newspapers and magazines.
The Guild requested that the Press and Registration of Periodicals (PRP) Bill, which aims to replace the Press and Registration of Books Act-1867, be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee in a statement made here.
The Guild is concerned about the expansion of powers of the Press Registrar, the new restrictions on citizens to bring out periodicals, the continuation of power to enter premises of news publications, the vagueness inherent in many of the provisions, and the ambiguity surrounding power to frame rules that can have adverse implications on press freedom, a statement by the Guild said.
The Guild has already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, leaders of political parties, as well as Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur highlighting its concerns on the Bill.
“Given the liberal and arbitrary use of UAPA – which is the basis for defining ‘terrorist act’ and ‘unlawful activity’– as well as other criminal laws, including sedition, against journalists and media organisations to suppress freedom of speech, the Guild is deeply concerned by the introduction of these new provisions and the way they can be misused to deny the right to bring out news publications to persons who are critical of governments,” it said.
It urged that only the Press Registrar should be the relevant authority for the purpose of this Act and no other government agency should be given any powers with respect to registration of periodicals.
“The law on this issue should be more respectful of freedom of the press and should avoid granting vast powers to regulatory authorities to either interfere or shut down the press at their whims and fancies,” the Guild said, asserting that the primary emphasis of the Registrar and the PRP remains “registration” and not “regulation”.
The PRP Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 1 and passed two days later.
With PTI inputs