Bahrain - MPs have presented an urgent proposal to slash the suggested fines for editorial discrepancies by twentyfold from BD10,000 to a maximum BD500.

The move, by several MPs led by Jalal Kadhem, has gone to the parliamentary services committee for consideration.

It follows a lively debate over a planned modified publications law last Tuesday, suspended for two weeks after concerns over registration requirements and the hefty fines threat.

MPs last week expressed their displeasure with articles obliging all websites and social media accounts offering news and advertisement services to officially register and face the same types of penalties as established publications should they breach the rules.

Under the latest proposal, the fine would be BD100 for those launching publications without a licence or operating unlicensed print houses or selling unauthorised publications, or practising unlicensed media or advertisement activities, rather than facing penalties of up to BD5,000 as stated in the disputed version.

Anyone opening or operating a bookstore without a licence, and/or publishing or distributing unauthorised or banned publication would face a similar punishment.

Failure to publish a correction within an agreed timeframe would result in fines ranging from BD50 to BD300 rather than BD1,000 to BD10,000 as currently tabled.

Corrections published before a legal action timeframe would see any violation cancelled.

Other rules stipulate that people could run online-only news websites provided they had sought permission from the Information Affairs Minister. All existing websites would have six months to comply with the new rules.

“We don’t want to stall the law, but we see current punishments as restrictive,” he added. “The responsible committee will have to look into the suggestions we made and level up the whole law accordingly in a stable and effective manner.”

Information Affairs Minister Dr Ramzan Al Nuaimi told parliamentarians during their weekly session last Tuesday that the aim of registering websites and social media accounts was to offer two-way protection – to the account owners as well as members of the community.

Other MPs voiced concerns that members of dissolved political societies would be unable to obtain a licence.

Under agreed articles, courts would be authorised to confiscate all publications and shut down the violating print facility.

The editor-in-chief, or the responsible editors of a publication or website found violating the law, must publish corrections within three days on the same page and in the same space.

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