The Editors Guild of India on Sunday expressed concerns over certain provisions of the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill and Press and Registration of Periodicals (PRP) Bill.
The government has listed the DPDP Bill for consideration and passage in the Lok Sabha on Monday, while the PRP Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 1 and passed two days later.
In a statement here, the Guild said the DPDP Bill creates an enabling framework for surveillance of citizens, including journalists and their sources. The PRB Bill vests the government with powers to do intrusive and arbitrary checks into the functioning of newspapers and magazines, it said.
It has also written about its concerns on the Bills to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and I&B Minister Anurag Thakur as well as leaders of political parties in Parliament.
The Guild demanded that the DPDP Bill be sent to a parliamentary standing committee and the PRP Bill to a select committee.
The government tabled the DPDP Bill in Lok Sabha on August 3 with an aim to protect the privacy of Indian citizens while proposing a penalty of up to ₹250 crore on entities for misusing or failing to protect digital data of individuals.
Under Section 36 of the DPDP Bill, the Guild said, the government can ask any public or private entity (data fiduciary) to furnish personal information of citizens, including journalists and their sources. This can have an adverse impact on press freedom, it said.
As regards the PRP Bill seeks to replace the Press and Registration of Books Act-1867, the Guild said it 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.