The Government of Jamaica is getting international pressure to give a blanket exemption to journalists from provisions of the Data Protection Bill.
International press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has written to Dr. Andrew Wheatley, the chairman of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament currently examining the Bill.
Margaux Ewen, Executive Director for Reporters Without Borders North American, said without a blanket exemption, the proposed legislation is potentially threatening for journalists and media outlets.
RSF said it does not believe the Bill makes a sufficient distinction between gathering data for journalistic activities and gathering data for regular commercial purposes.
It said the Bill's negative impact on journalism could outweigh the advantages the legislation is supposed to provide.
Specific provisions of the Bill about which RSF is raising concern include the power given to the Information Commissioner to enforce, exempt, and penalise data controllers, which would include journalists.
RSF said it appreciates the desire to make the office of the commissioner independent, but said the fommissioner has too much power to decide how the legislation will apply to journalists.
The group's suggestion for an exemption for journalists echoes similar proposals made by the Press Association of Jamaica and the Media Association of Jamaica.