The Editors Guild of India on Sunday raised concerns about some of the “draconian provisions” in the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023.

The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 1 and was passed two days later by a voice vote. It replaces the existing Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867.

During a discussion in the House, Union Minister Anurag Thakur had said the Bill will lead to ease of doing business for media and publishing companies, simplify the process of registration and decriminalise several colonial-era penal provisions.

“Those involved in terrorist activities or unlawful activities against the state will not be granted permission to start a paper or periodical,” he had said, according to PTI.

On Sunday, the Editors Guild of India said that the new Bill widens the powers of the state to have more intrusive and arbitrary checks on the functioning of newspapers and magazines.

“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,” the body said in a statement.

On the provision to deny a license to people “convicted of a terrorist act or unlawful activity”, the press body said it is deeply concerned as this could be misused to deny the right to bring out news publications to persons who are critical of the government.

It also said that the term “specified authority” in the Bill allows government agencies other than the press registrar to conduct its function, which could even include the police and other law enforcement agencies.

Further, the Editors Guild said that Section 6(b) of the Bill gives power to the Press Registrar, as well as any other “specified authority” to enter the premises of a periodical to “inspect or take copies of the relevant records or documents or ask any questions necessary for obtaining any information required to be furnished”.

“This authority to enter a press organisation is excessively intrusive and it is deeply concerning…” the body said.

It also urged the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to refer the Bill to a Parliamentary Select Committee to allow a deep discussion on the issues that are crucial for press freedom.