The Centre plans to introduce a bill to replace the 155-year-old ‘Press and Registration of Books Act’ with a simplified version that decriminalises various provisions and brings digital media under its ambit.
The government plans to introduce the ‘Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2022’ during the monsoon session of Parliament beginning Monday.
“The Bill seeks to replace the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867 by decriminalization of the existing Act, keeping the procedures of the extant Act simple from the view point of medium/small publishers and uphold the values of Press Freedom,” a government communication to the Parliament read.
The government had first released the draft Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill in 2017 that sought to ease the process of registration of newspapers and dispense with the penal provisions under the PRB Act.
The PRB Act has provisions to impose a penalty on publishers for not printing the name of the printer in the newspaper or periodical or not making a declaration before the magistrate about operation of printing presses.
The proposed Bill has provisions to set up a press registrar general and bring the digital media in its ambit.
The 2019 draft bill had defined “news on digital media” as “news in digitised format that can be transmitted over the internet, computer, mobile networks and includes text, audio, video and graphics.” The Bill sought to enable the central government and the state government to frame appropriate rules to regulate the criteria or conditions for issuing government advertisements in newspapers, accreditation of newspapers, and suchlike facilities for newspapers.
It also proposed to have a simple system of registration of e-papers and doing away with the earlier provision under the PRB Act, 1867, that deal with prosecution of publishers.