ORG Statement on Interception of Communications Bill 2017
NASSAU, New Providence, (February 13, 2017) – The quiet tabling of the Interception of Communications Bill 2017 last week in the House of Assembly is deeply worrying to The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) and not only for its contentious content but also for the manner in which it was introduced.
As an organization that values transparency and participatory governance, ORG finds it problematic that a bill of such dire implications was introduced so quietly to Parliament, without being made available for viewing or consultation from the public and other stakeholders.
Similar bills around the world have gone through open development phases in which the government solicits input from the public, consults with experts and openly conducts the appropriate investigations and research to develop a bill that best serves both the people and the security of the nation. Countries like Australia, The United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Hong Kong all released whitepapers ahead of drafting a bill to encourage feedback and participation in the development of the bill.
Bills of this nature have historically presented a number of human rights concerns. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights states in a paper on the matter that ‘even the mere possibility of communications information being captured creates an interference with privacy, with a potential chilling effect on rights, including those to free expression and association.”
Echoing the sentiments of the UN High Commissioner, we believe a discussion must take place at the national level, between governments, businesses, private citizens, media, non-governmental organizations and academic experts to better understand the impact of this bill on privacy rights before any such bill can be passed. We have engaged and will be meeting with a variety of civil society and private industry groups to better understand and put forth a stance and course of action on this bill. We invite any group interested to contact us at [email protected]
Openness, transparency, and freedom of association and expression are all cornerstones of a liberal democracy and the process thus far has bucked these values. We urge the Members of Parliament to stay this bill until all stakeholders can be educated on the contents of the bill and give appropriate feedback.
Chauntez Wilson, Communications Coordinator