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Indian magazine industry unhappy with proposed amendments to PRB Act

12-April-2010
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Indian magazine industry unhappy with proposed amendments to PRB Act

The Press and Registration of Book (PRB) Act, 1867, will be amended soon, however, the Indian magazine industry is not happy with the Government’s proposed amendment recommendations. Though the Government had asked the industry to submit their suggestions on the proposed recommendations, there are still some issues that magazine fraternity does not agree with.

Meanwhile, the Association of Indian Magazine (AIM) has also taken this issue into consideration and various issues were taken up at a meeting held recently.

The PRB Act of 1867 was framed by the British government to keep control over Indian media. Speaking on the proposed amendments by the Government, Paresh Nath, Editor & Publisher, Delhi Press, said, “The proposed amendment by the Government is unnecessary. The old Act was working well during the British reign and after independence also it had been satisfying so far. The industry doesn’t need any amendment which will restrict the fundamental right to freedom of expression in any way.”

When asked how the amendment will impact magazine industry? Mitraji Bhattacharya, Publisher & President, Chitralekha Group, and General Secretary, AIM, said, “This Act is outdated and badly needs amendments. The AIM (Association of Indian Magazine), under the stewardship of our current President, ably supported by all the ex-presidents and other office bearers, has made repeated representations to the I&B Ministry to see that the issues of the magazine industry get taken care off.”

Few issues that industry is not satisfied with are:

Registration Process:

The registration process of new publications is a complex process in India according to the industry people. “We are requesting the I&B Ministry that the entire process should involve only the Press Registrar General and do away with Magistrate/ DCP Licensing. No other section of the media goes through the Magistrate/ DCP Licensing process. Incidentally, DCP Licensing deals with Arms, Explosives, Hotels, Meeting Houses, Cinemas, Public Amusement and Print. It just does not make sense. If this was to deal with any seditious or pornographic material, there are enough provisions in other Acts to take care of that.”

According to Delhi Press’ Nath, making registration process complicated meant restricting the basic rights of Indian citizens. “The registration process should not involve Magistrate and DCP certification,” he reiterated.

The word ‘Publication’:

The proposed amended Act is now using the word ‘publication’ to include newspapers, magazines, journals, newsletters, etc. Each of these is specifically defined in the new Act. “This is fine, but other Acts connected with postal concessions, railways, etc., do not use the word ‘publication’. The new Act, therefore, may result in certain concessions not available to us,” Bhattacharya remarked.

Definition of Foreign Publications:

There needs to be some more clarity regarding the definition of foreign publications. ‘Known Foreign Publication’, as mentioned in the proposed Act, is vague, particularly in the current world context and needs to be more specific. Bhattacharya stated that the definition of facsimile editions needed to be looked into. Barely using ‘exact replica in full or in part’ was not good enough.

Apart from these, there are a few other issues that the Indian magazine industry is not satisfied with. Delhi Press’ Nath noted, “It is being said that it is a regulatory Act, but my interpretation is that it’s a restrictive Act, which restricts Indian citizens from starting their own publication. Lots of power has been given to RNI and the District Magistrate. These amendments will only make our country like Burma and China, where the Press is very restricted.”

On the other hand, Bhattacharya commented that they were satisfied with the co-operation of the I&B Ministry in trying to understand their concerns and hopefully incorporate all the changes recommended by AIM. “It can resolve long standing issues of classification of magazines as a separate entity from newspapers, ease the entire process of registration of titles, clarify various issues related to foreign titles, etc.,” Bhattacharya concluded.

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