NASSAU, New Providence, (February 23, 2017) – We, as a group of 15 Civil Society and Private Industry Organizations are pleased by The Attorney General’s announcement that the Interception of Communications Bill 2017 will be delayed and made open to public consultation. This action is recognized as acknowledgement that public input and review of legislation is a fundamental aspect of Good governance that results in effective policies which are stronger and beneficial to the wider populace of The Bahamas.
Our groups share the belief that the ICB is a complex piece of legislation that has implications for privacy, freedom of expression, and the effectiveness of law enforcement. Over the last weeks, through our advocacy, we have raised public awareness and given voice to the many Bahamians who have significant questions and concerns regarding the ICB and how it will affect them. The Government decision to open the Bill for public consultation will provide a more open and timely opportunity for public education and engagement.
Each of our groups stand ready to work to ensure that the consultation process is as wide spread and inclusive as possible. We look to generate recommendations from the public that will ensure that the privacy of citizens is protected while giving law enforcement the modern tools necessary to address issues of crime. We are available to partner with the Attorney General and her office as recommendations from the various civil society organizations, The Bar association and members of the public to effectively amend The Bill so that it best protects citizens while ensuring it doesn’t infringe on constitutional rights. We will use all tools and resources available to us to facilitate this critical dialogue between government and the public. This is the essential mechanism of an effective and modern democracy.
While acknowledging that some of the public outcry regarding the ICB, has elicited a strong response, the vast majority of concerns and questions expressed by the public center around the potential for any legislation to infringe on the right to individual privacy and the freedom of citizens to express dissent and criticism of government policies and practices. This is a concern that should be shared by every citizen and must be applied to all past, current and future governments, regardless of ruling party. Civil Society and Private Industry are committing significant effort and resources into analysis and benchmarking the legislation to identify any terms or sections that could be interpreted as possible areas of concern. As this information becomes available, our groups will share it so that it can be used by the public to better understand evaluate the effectiveness of the ICB 2017.
We encourage all those who work and live in the Bahamas to take advantage of the consultation period to learn about the proposed ICB and voice your opinion. In a modern and true democracy, citizens must be able to express their views, free from tools and tactics of intimidation, victimization and punishment. It is our collective responsibility to ensure this legislation does not hinder this right.