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Don't rush it, educate us - Groups want more information on Data Protection Bill

Published:Thursday | May 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Dionne Jackson Miller
Jennifer McDonald

The Government has been urged to slow down the process of enacting the controversial Data Protection Bill into law as people continue to digest it and understand all the implications.

President of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Dionne Jackson Miller has argued that it is very important that there is serious consideration before the bill is passed into law.

Speaking on Tuesday during a public forum at the New Kingston campus of the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Jackson Miller argued that the bill, now before a joint select committee of parliament, should not to be rushed as there could be serious challenges in changing what she described as a "bad law". She also pointed out that the bill was very tedious to read and understand even by those with a trained eye.

"They bring this new legislation to us, and one of the problems in Jamaica is that it is very difficult to get legislation amended. Once it is passed, it is very difficult to get it changed," Jackson Miller emphasised. She noted that the PAJ was not "against the data protection of privacy".

But in highlighting some of the major issues bugging the press association, Jackson Miller said that the bill could be used as a tool to frustrate journalists in carrying out their duties. She also pointed out that the association had a difficulty with the provisions in the proposed legislation that give a minister of government the power to determine who may be exempted from the provision of the law.

The PAJ president contends that what has been proposed has set off alarm bells for investigative journalism, and, therefore, urges that the provisions be revised. However, she expressed the association's wish that journalism be exempted from the entire bill.

Speaking at the same forum, Jennifer McDonald, chief executive officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), agreed that the bill should not be rushed and called for greater public education.

She recalled a similar situation arising when seat belt laws were being introduced and the challenges that the Government faced then to educate citizens on how they would work.

On matters related to how the bill itself would function, the PSOJ representative said that businesses faced the prospect of high administrative costs to be compliant with the provisions of the proposed law. McDonald spoke specifically to the challenges that medium and small business would encounter in starting up.