Privacy

Doreen Weisenhaus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

The newsgathering practices of journalists have long been under public scrutiny. But one aspect of media behavior - Aggressive coverage of the personal lives of celebrities and others by reporters and by photographers known as "paparazzi" - has come under escalating criticism. For many, such coverage has become a symbol of an unethical and unrestrained press; for others, it is a symptom of an increasingly competitive marketplace. In either case, it has intensified the debate over privacy rights and press freedom. In many countries, the public, governments, lawmakers, and others have called for increased regulation, additional laws and/or judicial intervention to rein in what they consider to be excessive privacy intrusion by the media. Meanwhile, the journalism profession has urged more self-regulation. Efforts to define the relationship between the press and privacy rights for individuals have ranged from anti-paparazzi legislation passed in California in 2005 for increased civil liability for photographers to a far-reaching decision in 2004 by the European Court of Human Rights that news photographers cannot take pictures of Princess Caroline of Monaco or of her family on the streets of Germany. Presently in Hong Kong, where rambunctious media and their "puppy packs" of paparazzi are a familiar phenomenon, there are minimal restrictions on the media regarding privacy intrusion. That is because Hong Kong does not recognize a general right to privacy. But various aspects of privacy are protected through its constitution, the Basic Law; legislation such as the Bill of Rights Ordinance and the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, and civil actions under common law and equity such as breach of confidence. Other proposals with potentially far greater impact on the media have been made. In December 2004, the Law Reform Commission (LRC) of Hong Kong recommended formation of a statutory press commission to monitor print media, which would be required to follow a privacy code still to be formulated. It also urged creation of a right to privacy backed by new actions under civil law for media intrusion and publication of private facts. In March 2006, as part of a broader review of laws on covert surveillance by the government, the commission further recommended creation of two criminal offences with potential implications for the media: Trespassing on private premises with the intent to obtain personal information and using "sense-enhancing" or recording devices to obtain personal information of individuals in private premises. Later in 2006, the Hong Kong government and the Legislative Council began reviewing some of these proposals after a controversy erupted over publication of covert photographs of popular singer Gillian Chung undressing backstage at a concert, but as of date of publication, no new laws have been enacted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHong Kong Media Law
Subtitle of host publicationA Guide for Journalists and Media Professionals
PublisherHong Kong University Press, HKU
Pages103-125
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9789622098077
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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