Journalism and Privacy

By – Apoorva Mishra

A question journalists often confront is how much of a person’s private life should be revealed in an article. Just because a journalist is efficient enough to pull out the source’s information doesn’t mean all of that is an ethical practice. Ofcourse, the journalists want to share the information publically concerning the public’s “Right to know”. However, the journalists need to understand that they are serving the masses in the end and hence, there is a difference between the “Public’s right to know” and what the “Public wants to know”.

The people has a right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This right “to be secure” has consistently been interpreted to mean that people have a right to privacy in their homes and other non-public places, as well as a right to safety. This right applies to those whom you might want to record for a story as much as it applies to you.

‘Is it in the public interest?’ is a question one needs to ask before publishing personal information. The more private or intimate the information is, the greater the public interest justification needs to be.

The rights of the journalism has consistently been interpreted to mean that news organizations have the right to broadcast or print the information without the fear of censorship, even if it potrays a person in the negative limelight. Until and unless the information is true, the negative potryal shall stand justified and not necessarily lead to libel.

The courts have made it very clear that the public’s right to know is one of our most secure freedoms. This right generally applies to anything that could be considered interesting to the public, is in the public eye, or affects any portion of the populace. The public’s right to know allows the news to show the victim of a car crash, the President on vacation, or the unsanitary conditions inside a poorly run meat-packing plant. However, this does not mean a news broadcast has the right to libel or slander someone or otherwise misrepresent the pictures shown or the words read.

If a court decides that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to a piece of information or a situation, it then looks at the issue of whether, nonetheless, the public interest in the story outweighs this. In broad terms, this is about whether the issue is of public importance or not.

If any news intrudes into the privacy of a person then Privacy injunctions are regarded by many as a more important way of protecting their privacy because once private information is published it is difficult to make it private again. As a result, people are usually more concerned with preventing publication of the story than with getting damages subsequently.

Privacy injunctions are orders of the court that prevent publication of the private information. These are often obtained on an urgent basis shortly before a planned story is due to be broadcast, when there is not sufficient time for the court to properly consider all of the arguments.

If a person applies for an interim injunction, the court will decide whether or not the person seeking the injunction is more likely than not to succeed at trial. Sometimes, in order to avoid undermining the purpose of an injunction, the court will also order that the media is not allowed to report who has obtained an injunction.

Therefore, Privacy law may be relevant, for example, when you are reporting stories about people’s personal or sexual lives, finances, information about their health, or filming them in their house without their permission. It can even sometimes include situations where the person is in a public place. It is basically the correct judgement of what should be displayed in the public forum and what should not be. Journalism need to be practiced with some sense of sensitivity, sensitivity to protect the privacy, be it that for a public figure or a common man. For example, if a woman accuses a man of rape do you publish his name if charges haven’t been filed, and do you investigate the sexual history of the woman making the allegations? Therefore, a journalist needs to understand the difference between what is a news and what is not a news.

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