The Editors Guild of India on Saturday urged the Press Council of India to immediately withdraw its advisory against "unregulated circulation" of "foreign content", saying it could end up in “some form of censorship” and “punitive action” on a free press.
In a statement, it said the Guild was "perturbed by the unprovoked" advisory from the Press Council, which swears by self-regulation of the media and believes that any government interference would be destructive to press freedom.
"Through its advisory...(Press Council) is lending its weight towards a step that could bring in some form of censorship and punitive actions against those organisations that publish content, which in its view is seen as not desirable," the Guild said.
It noted that the advisory did not specify who will verify the content, the criteria of verification and "most importantly", what does "unregulated circulation" mean.
"Many publications in the country license and reproduce content from foreign agencies, newspapers, and periodicals, which is a prerogative of the editor, and who is in any case responsible for all the content published in their publication. A reiteration by the Council at this juncture of this established practice, in an ominous-sounding advisory, has disturbing implications," the statement said.
The Press Council had on November 25 issued the advisory asking Indian media to publish content from foreign publications only after due verification and warned that they will be held responsible for the reportage irrespective of from where it sourced the article.
The advisory came after the Press Council considered references received "by the government" from various quarters about the "responsibility of Indian newspapers in publishing foreign content".
"Hence, it advises the media to publish foreign extracts in Indian newspapers with due verification as reporter, publisher and editor of such newspaper shall be responsible for the contents irrespective of the source from which it is received," the advisory said.
The advisory comes as Indian newspapers and other media outlets publish reports and editorials by foreign publications like The Economist, New York Times and Washington Post that criticise the Narendra Modi government.