Sun | Mar 24, 2019

Patterson wants data protection to be balanced with press freedom

Published:Monday | March 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
File Former Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson

As the debate over the Data Protection Bill now before a joint select committee of Parliament rages on, former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has called for a balance to be struck between privacy rights, freedom rights, freedom of the press, and legitimate security concerns.

"The Data Protection Act is considered an essential pillar of Jamaica's ICT (information and communication technology) legal and regulatory framework. There is a need to balance privacy rights and freedom of the press and legitimate security concerns over content," said Patterson, while addressing a forum on related issues at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Thursday.

However, pointing to objections from the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) calling for journalism to be exempted from the provisions of the act, Patterson said: "Stale news sells like stale bread. Let me remind you that the freedom of the media, which is to preserve and promote, stems from the obligation to inform and educate. The right belongs to the public to know."

But he also stated that there is a need for media to remain credible.

"Whether in the law of defamation or the Cybercrime Act, journalists, like every citizen, are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts," said Patterson.

The Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) and the PAJ have been up in arms over provisions of the Data Protection Bill.

"We find as drafted, this bill raises major concerns for the business of media and concerns with respect to freedom of the press. From our perspective, some of the obligations imposed under the bill are inconsistent with the fundamental rights under the Constitution, such as the right to freedom of expression and the right to seek, receive, distribute, or disseminate information or opinions, ideas through

any media," MAJ Chairman Christopher Barnes told the joint select committee examining the bill last week.