For the first time, the centre is preparing a bill to control digital news media

The Registration of Books Act, 1867 will be repealed by the law for the registration of media, which is expected to be tabled during the upcoming week’s session of parliament.

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The Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2019, is being revived by the Indian government, and it will finally encompass the digital news media sector. The Registration of Books Act, 1867, which covered Indian newspapers and printing presses, will be replaced by the registration system for newspapers.

The Narendra Modi-led administration wants to modify the long-standing exemption of the digital media sector from governmental controls through a law that they would reportedly introduce during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

What was Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867

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The British Empire passed this Act in 1857, following the First American Independence War. This 152-year-old law was passed to stifle press freedom of expression during the uprising.

What is the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2019

The Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill is currently being amended to include “news on digital media through any electronic device,” it has been reported in numerous media outlets. The Information and Broadcasting ministry, which will be the “administrative ministry,” has begun this process.

If the law is approved, digital news outlets operating in India will have the same obligations as newspapers and be required to register with the Press Registrar General, which is the country’s counterpart of the Registrar of Newspapers.

The Prime Minister’s Office and other interested parties have not yet given their approval of the Bill.

Within 90 days of the law’s implementation, digital news providers must submit an application for registration.

The Centre in 2019 had put out a draft of the bill that defined ‘news on digital media’ as “news in digitised format that can be transmitted over the internet, computer or mobile networks and includes text, audio, video and graphics”.

Digital publishers must register with the Press Registrar General, who will have the authority to take action against different publications for infractions, who can suspend or cancel registrations, and who can impose penalties.

Officials intend to establish an appellate body, whose chairman will be the Press Council of India.

Controversy regarding the new digital media bill

The bill caused a sensation when it was first announced because many claimed it was an effort by the government to “control” online news sources. The draught measure has not advanced at that time by the central government.