New RNI Registration norms might suppress freedom of press

Registrar of Newspapers in India is an ancient body and quite resilient. It’s so resilient in fact that not many have thought to make alterations to it over the past 150 years since its introduction. But there was a reason for it. Freedom of expression, one of the many major rights that define us as citizens has been preserved, albeit indirectly, by sticking to these original rules. However, the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2019, has paved the way for something insidious. Those who hold the RNI online registration, or those who are going to be holding that, might now face the threat of their freedom being curbed. 

Let’s discuss what we are talking about. 

What the press used to be

As per article 19 section (a) of Indian constitution, it’s imperative for the people of India to have the freedom of press. When it comes down to it, it’s the press that supposed to open our eyes and move our attention towards the actions, or inactions that the government takes and let us take an unbiased approach to judge it ourselves.

However, this very nature of the newspaper has driven the government to take insidious measures, through the very policies, to transform the press into either a spokesperson or a bane of its foundations. One of the primary documents required for RNI registration is the publication. If your intent is to get the RNI registration certificate with the news that the government can perceive as “too honest”, then you’re out of luck when it comes to getting the authority to publishing your own news paper, but that’s nothing new. 

Suppression of press back in the emergency days

During the declaration of emergency back in 1975, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi ordered the officials to cut off all electricity to all the newspaper stations in Delhi. There was an order to:

Ensure that no newspaper against the policies is able to make its way to the people.

No newspaper criticizes the government.

Ensuring that enough detriment the press foundation might run them out of business.

The RNI registration agent, active back in the day said that it was all the part of the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Act. As soon as this newspaper was published, the number of circulations publications was reduced. Those that were not removed were only allowed to done so under certain conditions. 

A too familiar model of the same today

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d already know the recent protects regarding ANTI CAA and NRC. While we can dictate the ethicality of the moves all that we want to, that’s not the point. The point it, during this time, all the advertisements of the newspaper groups that were criticizing the government was cut off. The recent registration of press and periodicals bill, 2019 has also seen several emerging facets that might surge this suppression. 

Problems with the Latest bill about press

It’s not the issue about RNI registration fees or the process to acquire the RNI certificate of registration that has started to bother many, it’s the new rules that are imposed on even “free media”.

RNI registration for online news portals: As per the provisions of the act, online news portals also have to acquire the RNI registration. While it makes sense theoretically, it cannot be considered the right thing to do. When it comes to online news channels, they are the last bastion of free thinkers where many are going to get a different, and sometimes unbiased perspective. With making RNI registration certificate mandatory for even these portals, one can set in stone that they have to play by the same rules as conventional newspapers.

Publishing periodical every 12 months: Until and unless a periodical is published every 12 months, the newspaper won’t be allowed to have the RNI certificate. With constant internet shutdowns and power blackouts still prevalent across the country, it’s one move that’s not quite feasible for new publications.

Allowing central and state government to frame regulations for issuing government advertisements: By giving the reins of how a government news to be advertised to the state and central government, the centre has effectively framed a biased design. Implementing it can have an adverse impact on the unbiased principle that newspapers need to live with. 

But still there is hope

Regardless of new changing direction the office of Registrar of Newspaper in India is taking, you can create a change yourself. While the restrictions that have been posed to you are many, you can look them as a challenge. And realign yourself to be unbiased. But first, you’d have to get the RNI certificate of registration yourself.

Do you want to start your own publication in India? With a small RNI registration fees, you can do it. Connect with Registrationwala and let them assist you in matters involving RNI registration from filing the application to getting the license.

By Vicky Kumar

Creator of I AM UR TEACHER, Engineer by Degree 3+ Experience in Digital Marketing, Travel & Gym Lover.

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