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To Regulate Digital News, Modi Govt to Table Amended Bill in Monsoon Session: Report

Digital news publishers will have to apply for registration within 90 days of the law coming into effect or face cancellation
digital media

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: NDTV

New Delhi: In a first, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is all set to ‘regulate’ digital new media by bringing in an amended Bill in the Monsoon session of Parliament, scheduled to start next week.

 “The Information and Broadcasting ministry, which will be the "administrative ministry", has started the process to amend the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill to include "news on digital media through any electronic device", says a report in NDTV.

Read Also: ‘In Some Places IT Rules Against Principle of News’: DIGIPUB

If the Bill is passed, which is most likely seeing the passage of several important Bills without debate in Parliament, digital news publishers will have to apply for registration within 90 days of the law coming into effect, says the report.

“Digital publishers will need to register with the Press Registrar General, who will have powers to act against various publications for violations and who can suspend or cancel registrations and impose penalties.”

As per the proposed amendments, an appellate board is planned with the chairperson of the Press Council of India as its chief, officials told NDTV.

However, the Bill is yet to be cleared by the Prime Minister's Office and other stakeholders, the report said quoting government sources.

The amendments will bring digital news media under the control of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

An earlier attempt by the Centre to regulate digital media under new Information Technology rules in 2019 has been legally challenged by various petitioners, including some members of Digipub India Foundation, a collective of digital news websites, such as Newslaundry, News Minute, Newsclick, The Wire, Scroll, Article 4, Quint among others. Even some mainstream media outlets have challenged the new IT Rules. The matter is pending in Supreme Court.

The Madras High Court has even sent a notice to the Centre on a petition Digital News Publishers Association, comprising 13 outlets, challenging constitutional validity of the new IT rules.

Read Also: IT Rules: Madras HC Issues Notice to Centre over Plea Challenging Consitutional Validity

It may be recalled that Digipub, an association of independent digital news only websites, which includes NewsClick, last year announced the formation of an independent content review committee, as part of its ‘commitment to professional media ethics.”

The independent committee, headed by Justice M B Lokur, comprises “individuals with an unimpeachable record and accomplishments in the fields of law, rights, gender and public administration,” a press statement issued by DIGIPUB had said.

The member of the committee include retired Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur, Swarna Rajagopalan, founder and director for the Prajnya Trust, Bezwada Wilson, a founder of the Safai Karamchari Andolan, and Jawhar Sircar, former CEO of Prasar Bharati and former secretary in the Ministry of Culture.

According to the press statement, the committee represents an “additional, voluntary layer of transparency” on the part of its member publications.

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