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| 25 April, 2018

Bahrain sets up new authority to oversee personal data

The authority will be responsible to check, validate, store and protect all personal data related to Bahrainis or expatriates

Image used for illustrative purpose only.
An anti-government protester holds up a passport as he protests against nationalisation, in front of the Bahrain Immigration Directorate in Manama March 9, 2011.

Image used for illustrative purpose only. An anti-government protester holds up a passport as he protests against nationalisation, in front of the Bahrain Immigration Directorate in Manama March 9, 2011.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Bahrain - A new national authority that will oversee the privacy of personal data is set to be established in Bahrain.

Parliament unanimously approved the urgently drafted 60-article Personal Information Protection Law in a record 20 minutes with only one amendment being done during yesterday’s weekly session.

The authority will be responsible to check, validate, store and protect all personal data related to Bahrainis or expatriates from any ministry, government body or company while changes can only be made through its director should there be a need.

All courts and prosecutions will have access to the information, while information that doesn’t fall under privacy, which will be determined by the authority, can be accessed for journalistic, arts and research purposes.

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Those who tamper with, leak, spread or access information will be jailed up to a year or fined between BD1,000 and BD20,000, or both.

Taking bribes to provide false information will have a fine between BD3,000 and BD20,000, while the money received would be confiscated.

Misusing the authority’s name, logo or documents will have a sentence of a month in jail, fine between BD100 and BD500, or both.

Off court settlements could also be done between the authority and violating parties before a verdict is issued.

The authority will come under the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister or any other minister that His Majesty King Hamad may assign responsibility to.

Meanwhile, parliament also approved another government-drafted bill amending the 2002 Criminal Proceeds Law, which would create a witness protection programme in Bahrain.

It enables the Public Prosecution to change the addresses, names and identities of witnesses who co-operate in major crimes.

MPs also voted in favour of amendments to the 1989 Cassation Court Law enabling it to review Sharia courts’ verdicts.

Parliament also voted to force private hospitals, clinics and medical facilities to sack expatriate staff within three months, if a capable Bahraini replacement is found.

The amendment to the 2015 Private Medical Establishments Law has been opposed by the Cabinet, which has described it as impractical and disruptive.

According to the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA), the sector has an average Bahrainisation rate of 23 per cent.

Bahrainis could also be exempted from paying residential real estate registration fees once in a lifetime, under approved amendments to the 2013 Real Estate Registration Law.

MPs also voted in a favour of a bill that would turn Bahrain Polytechnic into a fully independent university.

It was put on hold last week, as MPs demanded that Bahraini students get subsidised rates, which they included in the law.

The bill would reduce its reliance on government financing and become self-sustaining.

However, it would remain under the supervision of a government minister.

All bills will be reviewed by the Shura Council.

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