Privacy limitations dominate Access to Information debate

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs, yesterday, failed to determine the exact limitation of invasion of privacy in the much-awaited media bill, leaving it to the judges discretion to determine the act.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs, yesterday, failed to determine the exact limitation of invasion of privacy in the much-awaited media bill, leaving it to the judges discretion to determine the act.

The debate on invasion of privacy arose from one of the articles of the Access to Information Bill which is under deliberation in the committee.

Article four of the bill prohibits any form of involvement or unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual but does not clarify the limitations of individual privacy.

Reacting to the concerns, the acting Director General of the Rwanda Bureau of Information and Broadcasting (ORINFOR), Willy Rukondo, said it was not simple to determine individual privacy and that it was up to the journalist to use their conscience to determine what constituted individual privacy and what was not.

“This is a concern that has been around for many years, but in this case, I propose we leave it to the journalist to determine what individual privacy is and what is not,” said Rukundo.

The Committee Chairperson, Alfred Rwasa declined to make any changes in the bill that would define a person’s privacy.

“This idea of defining the invasion of individual’s privacy came up when we were working on the Penal Code, and we made it categorically clear that it’s only the judge that can determine the invasion of privacy, depending on his appreciation of the plaintiff or the defendant’s explanations,” said Rwasa.

In his intervention, Fredrick Karanganwa, the Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, retained the position of the platform on the article saying that the clause should clearly clarify the term ‘unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual’, to ensure that information of public nature on an individual is not denied to the public under the pretext of individual privacy.

Several calls to lawmakers, seeking to define invasion of privacy, hit a dead end as they could not commit themselves on defining and detailing the limitations of the term.

The scrutiny of this legislation continues in the committee session today.

edwin.musoni@newtimes.co.rw

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