Data Bill likely to retain exemptions for scribes

NEW DELHI: The personal data protection Bill, to be tabled in Parliament next week, is likely to retain exemptions for journalists suggested by the Justice BN Srikrishna panel, providing them the freedom to write news reports or opinion pieces that might contain “sensitive personal data.”

Journalists will have to comply with the code of ethics put down by the Press Council of India or “any media self-regulatory organisation,” the draft of the Bill had said, and top officials in the government said this would be retained in the final Bill as well.

The IT ministry had specifically sought the information & broadcasting ministry’s views on this while framing the draft. The I&B ministry had recently announced its intent to make amendments to the Press Registration Bill, by removing prosecution as a punishment for “erring publishers,” making the registration of newspapers a centralised process, and also seeking compulsory registration of online news websites and e-papers with the Centre.

According to those in know of the matter, exemption to journalists from major parts of the draft had come up during deliberations.

Data Security Council of India chief executive Rama Vedashree said there must be exemptions in certain justified cases. “There are functions of state during a health emergency or natural disaster, when you cannot expect a health service provider to take consent for collection of personal data. On similar grounds, journalists might need some exemptions to do their job. But, of course, if a journalist is flouting the professional code of conduct and causing wilful harm, there need to be checks and balances in law.”

READ  Iran reports 129 new virus deaths, taking total to 853

Prasanto Roy, a tech policy analyst, said journalists often would need to collect information about people from third parties, for bona fide purposes in the course of their work — for instance to validate offrecord information or the authenticity of a document that might have been seen by other people. “If all the provisions of the Bill were applied — for instance the need for ‘explicit consent of a data principal’ — it would be impossible for journalists, especially investigate journalists, to comply and still do their work,” Roy said.

“In short, if the Bill in its draft form sans the exemption was applied blindly to media, it would become impossible for journalists to do their work, there would be onerous liabilities on editors and publishers. The exemptions are most reasonable and I do hope they are retained in the final text,” he said, adding: “For instance, Section 47 (Journalistic Purposes) exempts the need to comply with purpose limitation — the mandate to process information only for the purpose it was originally collected for. Journalists often have to source data that may not be published as part of their report.”

Lawyer Apar Gupta said while it was a good move, there was a need to look at the finer aspects of the Bill before reaching conclusions.

The Press Council has had a comprehensive code of ethics for journalists since 1978, clearly specifying what constitutes “right to privacy”, its general secretary, CK Nayak, said.

This includes things concerning a person’s home, family, religion, health, sexuality, personal life and private affairs, and also gives a caution against defamatory writings, he added. “The code actually covers wide-ranging issues and journalism as a profession cannot be restricted,” Nayak said.

READ  India hitting US "very hard" on trade; will talk business with PM Modi: Donald Trump

For TV channels, the News Broadcasting Standards Authority looks into the complaints of the 20 national and regional channels that form the News Broadcasters Association, periodically organising hearings and issuing orders.

Government sources said the Bill would also include exemptions for processing data without an individual’s consent for “reasonable purposes,” including security of the state, detection of unlawful activity or fraud, whistleblowing, medical emergencies, credit scoring, operation of search engines, and processing of publicly available data.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here