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Media Association Jamaica Limited (MAJ) express disappointment

0 | 2020-06-25 09:16:00

Media Association Jamaica Limited (MAJ) express disappointment

Media Association Jamaica Limited (MAJ) is expressing disappointment at the apparent disregard
shown to the recommendations put forward in respect of the Data Protection Bill passed June 12, 2020 in the House of Parliament. Both the MAJ and Press Association of Jamaica, while in support of preserving ones right to data privacy, have for the last two years advocated for changes up to and including complete exemption of media from the bill on the basis of press freedom principles. The association noted that this means, among other things, that:

• There could be subjective determination by the information commissioner for whether exemptions applied when media/journalists (as data controllers) are challenged for publishing personal data (e.g. picture, name, data of birth, address) [Section 50];
• A data controller will not be able to present his/her case to the information commissioner before a
determination is made in respect of an application challenging the use of personal data [e.g. Section 11 (5)];
• Avenues exist for confidential sources to be exposed, including confiscation of journalistic records,
potentially compromising investigative projects, revealing sources and/or putting journalists in danger. [e.g. Schedule III and Section 49 (1) c];
• There is no cap or guidelines for the recovery of awards for damages, financial or otherwise. Double
compensation is also possible, as this Bill does not explicitly preclude individuals from claiming under this Bill and the Defamation Act [Section 69];
• Claims for breaches can be brought against a data controller at any time, perhaps years after the incident, unlike defamation laws which stipulate limitation periods;
• Culpability will be determined by a judge as opposed to a jury as occurs under defamation law;
• Fines for individual breaches remain high and imprisonment for individuals still looms. [Section 68].

MAJ Chairman Christopher Barnes noted that “Our disappointment is that the policymakers have seemingly squandered an opportunity to make credible a process of consultation by proceeding without the suggestions made not only for the media, but for the benefit of all.”, he said, “What we are left with is legislation which will potentially overreach and levy significant administrative burden and ambiguity on all data controllers, large or small.”. He added, “Why does this matter to the ordinary citizen one may ask? It is because, whilst there are certain exemptions in this bill afforded to the media, the average person as a data controller will be fully exposed to many of the above issues and more.” He said, provided that the policy makers are amenable, the association stands ready for dialogue on adjustments to increase practicality of application prior to implementation

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