Thousands of journalists across India went on strike Tuesday to protest a proposed new defamation law they say aims to curtail press freedom.

All but one of New Delhi's 17 dailies carried front-page notices announcing they would not publish Wednesday. The two national news agencies, the Press Trust of India and the United News of India, stopped working at 3 a.m. and said they would resume after the 24-hour strike.The proposed Defamation Act expands the concept of defamation and negates the presumption of innocence of journalists or others making disclosures. Newspapers branded it "draconian," "fascist," and "undemocratic."

The legislation would allow punishment of up to two years in prison for first offenders and up to five years for subsequent convictions. It shifts the burden of proof from plaintiff to journalists and calls for speedy trials - something not stipulated for murder, treason or rape trials.