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Committee wants journalism defined in Data Protection Bill

Published:Thursday | July 11, 2019 | 12:19 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

Members of the joint select committee reviewing the Data Protection Bill are recommending that journalism be defined within the body of the bill with consideration for how the media landscape has changed.

Last year, the Press Association of Jamaica made a call for the media to be exempted from the Data Protection Bill.

It said the enactment of the bill in its current form would likely generate challenges to the publication of important stories, which would necessitate expensive and time-consuming court proceedings.

Speaking at the committee meeting held yesterday at Gordon House in Kingston, committee member Julian Robinson said that there must be distinction between the practice of journalism to protect freedom of expression versus a company merely involved in journalistic pursuits.

“Let’s say TVJ is involved in a whole set of activities in journalism, broadcasting, all of that. TVJ should not be exempt from the legislation, but someone who is practising journalism collecting information that may be confidential, sensitive, etcetera, that element is what we are saying should be exempt. Is that what we are saying?” said Robinson, the member of parliament for South East St Andrew.

A similar question was posed by Senator Robert Morgan.

“If you are practising journalism and you’re collecting personal data from members of the public, ... you could also use that data to assist you in your other business of, let’s say, social media marketing. Does the law contemplate making it very clear that though we are seeking to protect that expression, the entity that is doing the journalism work [cannot use] that data in other associated businesses?” he asked.

In response, Chief Technical Director Wahkeem Murray said that provisions would be included to address these concerns.

“They wouldn’t be allowed by the bill, as it is now written, to do that because what is protected is journalism, literary, artistic material. So to the extent that you collect personal data and you might use it for a piece, whether it’s something that you’re blogging, an article in a newspaper, or whatever, then that would fall within the context of the clause and the exemptions that we’re speaking about. When you start using that personal data for something other than journalism, artistic, or literary material, then you’d be running afoul of the legislation.”

The committee, which had not met since March last year, is scheduled to meet again on July 24.