Yasir Pirzada's Blog

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Privacy Matters!

It was perhaps in 1994 when I first visited United Kingdom. On the very first night, my host took me to a casino in Bradford (probably that used to be a SoP for such visits). Overwhelmed with excitement, I requested the host to take some pictures of mine in front of a roulette table (takey sanad rahey aur bawaqt e zarurat kam awey). As soon as he took the first picture, a lady appeared from nowhere and told me in a very polite manner that I can’t take pictures in the casino. On my query, she said that using camera in a place like casino might be objectionable to people who come to play here as it amounted to intruding into their privacy. Although surprised a bit, I immediately apologized; but instead of accepting my apology, she demanded my camera because she wanted to eliminate the picture that I had taken in the casino. I handed over my camera to her which she returned the other day along with developed printouts of the remaining pictures which were in the roll. She thanked me and didn’t even ask for the cost of the pictures that were developed, although the fault was mine!

In 2007, I visited United States for the first time for a short course in a university. On the first day, the university coordinator gave us a form to sign. The form was a kind of undertaking that “I have no objection on being photographed or filmed in the class room or moving on a tour or any public gathering etc.” At that time, I made quite fun of that “useless” form because in my opinion that was totally an unnecessary undertaking. However, towards the end of the course, I realized how important the privacy matters were in the eyes of the Americans. Since I, as a Pakistani, never thought it that way, I had no idea why on earth they were getting our signatures on a NOC for taking photos!

Last year, (this time Pakistan), I was on my way to Defense. When I stopped at a crossing, a young boy and a girl with a mike and movie camera in their hands approached my car. The guy put the mike in front of me while the girl directed her camera towards my face and started saying “Sir, the floods have devastated our country, how much would you like to donate for this noble cause?” I answered “Have you taken my permission before starting this recording?” The answer was quite unexpected for them; their reaction, on the other hand, was not unexpected for me. Both of them first looked at me surprisingly for a while, then stared me in a real displeased manner and finally went off.

All these three incidents may appear quite insignificant but actually they are not. We, as a nation, have no idea what does it mean by an individual’s privacy; what are our rights in this regard and how should we not let anybody infringed this right? Taking photograph or filming someone without his or her permission is considered to be absolutely normal in our country. Imagine you are shopping with your family (or even alone) in some market or having dinner somewhere; suddenly a cameraman appears and starts asking you some meaningless questions about the ongoing inflation in the country or the quality of ‘morning shows’ for that matter. Nobody dares to stop him/her.

There may be people who have no objection to this unwanted filming but at the same time there may be those who don’t want it anyway. Putting camera on the face of someone without even requesting a formal permission is unthinkable here. TV channel cameramen think that they have divine right to film ‘everything’ and they presume that every citizen of Pakistan is crazy about coming on screen; so filming an ordinary man, especially woman, on street is actually an act of benevolence on their part! And not only TV channels do this, private individuals also trespass your privacy without even letting you know about it, which is even more dangerous!

So the lesson learnt is that every individual has the right to have his/her privacy. We should exercise this right anywhere we want without any hesitation or fear of rejection. In today’s high tech world, this has become even more important because you never know where some sick mind might have installed cameras to film you. And it is not necessary that such cameras always operate at some public place; that can be a changing room of a boutique even! So be ware about that!

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December 24, 2011 - Posted by | Media, Men, Society, Women

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