Govt moots law on foreign newspapers

NEW DELHI: The Indian government is proposing to enact a legislation to plug loopholes in the rules and regulations related to the print medium and discourage a repeat of the International Herald Tribune episode.

The Congress-led coalition government also ruled out easing norms for printing of foreign newspapers from India, barring technical and scientific journals.

"The government does propose to bring about a legislation that that would stop people like MJ Akbar and Venkat Ram Reddy in future to take advantage and print foreign newspapers from India, " a senior info-broad ministry representative said today.

Hyderabad-based Midram Publications has been printing and publishing IHT from India after registering the brand with the Registrar of Newspapers in India since May end --- a move that has put the government in a quandary as apparently no law is being broken as existing guidelines and rules lack legal sanctity and teeth.

While IHT is printed in India by Reddy, Akbar, who also edits Asian Age newspaper, is the editor. Akbar has also threatened to take legal action against the government if pushed against the wall.

"The government is looking at strengthening its case" against the likes of IHT, the ministry representative said, indicating that over the next two-three weeks a draft legislation in this regard may be ready.

The new proposed legislation would aim at plugging loopholes in organizations like the RNI, Press Registration Bureau Act and syndication rules.

Pointing out that till now the country's print medium sector laws had been guided by the "moral strength" of a Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet decision of 1955, which incidentally is not technically a law, the I&B ministry representative said the present government and Congress party had been against a previous government's decision allowing 26 per cent foreign investment in the news category of the print medium.

Apart from Business Standard, which has tied up with Financial Times of London, the Times of India group too is aiming at bringing The Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ) to India, amongst a slew of such other projects.

As per information available, AWSJ's Indian edition, if allowed, is to be edited by Dow Jones' India representative and senior journalist, Suman Dubey, who also happens to be a family friend of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

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