JournalismPakistan.com January 28, 2017
A lady at a party is video-taped coming into the room having deposited her dinner plate. She does not know the camera is on her. She is filmed wiping her hands surreptitiously on her drawing-room curtains. Obviously, she is unaware of her performance. Later, the guests are shown the taping. She is part of the audience. When the segment comes up she is scarlet with embarrassment and leaves the gathering immediately.
A lady watching a live TV coverage of a cricket match from her home was surprised to see the camera pan onto the spectators, among them her husband with another lady. At a time when he was supposedly in a very important 'I won't be home till late' meeting with clients. Perhaps she was one but that would have done little to mitigate the warm reception awaiting him at home.
A well-known celebrity once kicked a video cameraman for sparking an attack of migraine by focusing a harsh light on him as he entered a function.
In all three cases, the subject was not a party to the recording, and with video cameras now ubiquitous and arbitrarily switched on, the rights of privacy are being dangerously invaded.
We had seen the film in which a tourist, her family accidentally tapes a murder being committed. High drama follows as the murderer attempts to get that tape with his face of it. However, in more benign circumstances, is there any safeguard offered to any of us from being put on tape by strangers without our knowledge?
The irritation factor is only part of it and video teams hired for specific occasions tend to usurp all rights, behaving as if they had a free-for-all passage. Go to an average function and these people carrying equipment and trailing snaking cables and mobile lights push and shove and make a thorough nuisance of themselves. By some unspoken conspiracy inspired by the aura of media everyone silently suffers the rudeness and the high-handiness because they have a camera and that gives them some inexplicable superiority in the human race.
No one ever stops to ask that there might be some guests who are hostile to the idea of being photographed or taped and it would only be good manners to ask their permission first. But balloon this concept into public gatherings and the rights of privacy completely disappear.
Why should the purchase of a ticket to a function ipso facto give anyone the right to film an individual eating, drinking, shouting, jumping, putting up banners or be seen in specific company without paying him royalty for the appearance and contracting with him prior to a telecast? That would be impossible, don't be ridiculous.
True, but it still does not change the unilateral nature of the arrangement and the chance appearance of an individual in a public broadcast must provide legal grounds for redress if that airing causes him anguish, distress or compromises his position. He could be photographed shaking hands with a figure whose reputation or image is conducive to needless discomfort.
At the risk of being indelicate, a person digging his nose while watching a cricket match is shown across three continents. Intrinsically harmless, yes but what if he is the top executive in his organization and so recognized on screen. It was not part of the deal. No one asked if they could take his picture digging his nose.
There have been no test cases recorded for punitive action or damages arising from such coverage but if one were to be initiated the odds favour the plaintiff.
I, for one, am all for warnings being issued on all invitations, private and public, that the event will be telecast and the invitee could be in the coverage.
That would be a start in the right direction.
Imagine, for a moment, as you consider this article as unnecessarily alarmist, that as you are taped on video, the audio is also taking in your words.....and you don't know it.
Sobers you up pretty fast.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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