The Editors Guild of India on Saturday urged the Press Council to withdraw its advisory asking media organisations to publish foreign content only after due verification. It warned that it could lead to “some form of censorship and punitive actions”.

The Editors Guild said in a statement that it is “perturbed” by the Press Council of India’s advisory. “Through this advisory, it appears that the Council, which swears by self-regulation of media and believes that any government interference would be destructive to press freedom, is lending it’s weight towards a step that could bring in some form of censorship and punitive actions against those organizations that publish content, which in it’s view is seen as ‘not desirable’,” it said.

The editors’ association pointed out that the advisory didn’t clarify how the foreign content will be verified. “The advisory does not specify who will verify the content, on what criterion will it be verified, and most importantly, what does ‘unregulated circulation’ even mean,” it said.

The association said that several publications in the country reproduced and licenced content from foreign sources. It added that the editors made the decision to publish such content and took responsibility for it. “A reiteration by the Council at this juncture of this established practice, in an ominous sounding advisory, has disturbing implications,” it said. “Editors Guild urges the PCI [Press Council of India], which should be committed to press freedom, to withdraw this advisory immediately.”

The Press Council of India had issued the advisory on November 25. It had said that “unregulated circulation” of the foreign content was not desirable and that the media must properly verify it before publishing. It had added that the publishers and editors will be responsible for the “foreign extracts”. irrespective of the source.

An unidentified official had told Hindustan Times that the advisory was issued keeping legal responsibility in mind. “There were concerns about who will be held responsible in case of content that is published from foreign sources or from foreign authors,” the official had said. The official added that the Press Council had received submissions from the people as well as the government, so it decided that the legal responsibility for the content should rest with the Indian media.