Do We Have the Freedom to Protect our Privacy?

Today is our Independence Day – the very day when we got our so called freedom from the British rule. But the question which still remains unanswered is – Do we actually have the freedom? Probably, Indian constitution doesn’t give us the right to freedom to protect our privacy, but it doesn’t mean that anyone can intrude into one’s personal life. We continue to witness an all-out assault on our privacy. This holds more so for popular people like Shashi Thaoor.

Day before yesterday, Shashi Tharoor, former Union Minister of State for External Affairs, got miffed after seeing his wedding card being flashed by some TV channels even before those could be received by his near and dear ones. This was a real example of how media could go to any extent to intrude someone’s privacy so as to gain high TRP ratings. Media has openly published & publicised Shashi Tharoor’s marriage & reception dates and also even e-mail sent to family & friends without seeking his consent. This is what Mr. Tharoor had to write on Twitter:

Horrified: 2 channels r telecasting purloined copies of my wedding invitation cards b4 friends have even recvd them. Has our media no decency?

This is nothing new for him. Even few days back Mr. Tharoor had to vent out his anger against publication of his personal pictures:

U never get used to loss of privacy. Unhappy to see personal pix, never intended for publication, in the newspapers this week. Frustrating

Mr. Tharoor hadn’t given permission to PTI to take his pictures as mentioned by him on his twitter handle. But, probably these pics were sold to PTI by one photographer who was surreptitiously following him.

The whole issue boils down to Ethics. In India, we have close to 1.2 billion people and everyone has to earn his livelihood one way or the other.  The problem comes when someone gets paid for intruding someone’s privacy. Even Aamir Khan productions’ recent movie ‘Peepli Live’ also highlighted this very issue, though in a humorous way.

Sometimes, we have to forgo our privacy for the sake of National interest. National interest should override the individual interest in such cases. Government interception of mails & phone conversations for obvious security concerns falls under that category. But whenever there is no national interest involved, then intruding someone’s policy, I believe, is no less than a crime.

Ethics involve decision-making at three levels viz. at individual, organisation and business system levels. Problems that result from accepted media practices cannot be effectively addressed by any single media house. These are difficult for one media house to change single-handedly, because the company is constrained by competition with possibly less ethical competitors. So, a change needs to come at the level of business system itself wherein the media industry itself sets its standards so that privacy intrusion issues are significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated.



3 responses to this post.

  1. Agreed Varun… the fact remains that like any other industry, even Media is getting highly competitive, what with newer and newer News channels popping-up every now-and-then. This is making life tougher for the journalists who have to press that much harder to get ‘unique’ news from the other lots.

    In the process, they’ve left ethics way behind few years back, and, now, simply want to highlight ‘Breaking News’ sort of category. There as well seems to be a shift in journalism practices from ‘creative’ or ‘analytical’ stories, to ‘catch-me-first’ type of stories.

    ‘New’ is not the mantra any more, its ‘Now’ thats gaining increasing significance.
    Nice Article on privacy Varun… looking forward for such ones more often.


    • Very correctly pointed out Viral! What I also feel is that viewers should also become more ethical by rejecting those channels which telecast such kind of cheap stories for gaining the TRP ratings. Consequently, stories covered unethically for cheap publicity will eventually get wiped off from the system.


  2. The source of this latest controversy is the IPL chief Mr. Lalit Modi. Mr. Modi breached the confidentiality agreement and published in his twitter account the details of stakeholder’s of IPL Kochi Team’s franchise owners Rendezvous Sports World (RSW). To which he also claimed that “he was asked by an influential Union Minister to not get into details of Sunanda Pushkar” who has a stake of about 18% that equals to Rs. 70 crore. He actually pointed his finger to Mr. Shashi Tharoor. However, Tharoor denied having played any role in this IPL team auction and hasn’t made any profit from the sale or having pressured Modi in any way. RSW protested Modi’s breach of confidentiality agreement. Sunanda Pushkar also issued a statement denying all the charges filed against her.


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