The case against the unjustified use of social media to invade one’s privacy
The misuse of private information (i.e. images and messages obtained in clandestine ways) in public domain seems to be the order of the day; as Gambians continue to rejoice the liberty created by social media phenomenon . Certainly, sensible use of social media seems necessary and must be promoted in a democratic society in order to enlarge freedom of expression.
What is objectionable, is that deliberate use of social media to cause injury to others’ feelings, these include malicious distribution of unsolicited messages or images, and publication of unsubstantiated allegations. This, in my view, constitutes the most flagrant violation of ones’ private life. Such reckless conduct cannot be legally justified under the pretext of freedom of expression. Because the only freedom which deserves the name, is the freedom which does not deprive others of their rights, or impede their abilities to live in dignity.
The right to privacy is a fundamental human right upon which human dignity is preserved. It imposes obligation of confidence upon those who were/ are in a relationship to keep private matters private. The presumption is that, what we discussed or done in private must remain private, unless I waive my right of privacy.
It is plainly simple, the use and the sharing of private data maliciously, has no place in a democratic society, such as the one we are trying to nurture in The Gambia. Indeed, it is within the capacity of law to compensate for such wrongdoings, in that those whose rights have been seriously trampled upon, either by the media, or private individuals can seek financial compensation.
The point of the law is to organise society in an orderly fashion, which includes to remedy injustices, and also to punish prohibited conduct. Certainly, if the state fails to create laws capable of controlling pernicious behaviours, it is most likely the society we live in, would descend into chaos and confusion, with inevitable consequence of destabilising the social networks of that society. Clearly, an anarchic society is bound to be less productive than a law-abiding one; as the former to tend to be preoccupied with efforts of containing vicious cycle of chaos, and confusions.
While the public’s right to know is a fundamental principle on which freedom of expression is built, that right has a corresponding obligation, which includes among other things to respect other people’s rights. This makes it obligatory for Gambians to respect each other’s rights to privacy, whilst exercising their new found freedom of expression in the social media circles. Of course, freedom of expression, when exercised in a responsible manner, it enhances debates of public importance with a view to recalibrate policy ideas that are likely to have important societal impacts.
In many respects, the only circumstances in which reasonable intrusion of public figures’ private life may be justified; it is when such intrusion serves public interest, in particular, instances where the public officer abused their position to exploit others. Without such justification I see no reason why individuals should be subjected to public vilification.
Although citizens might be wary of privacy laws because of their impinging effects on freedom of expression, they are necessary to protect individuals from harm. In this regard, I would expect Government to take measures that would preserve the dignity and rights of all Gambians. Protecting the rights and privacy of individuals by way of enacting laws, will in no doubt protect the fabrics of the very society citizens live. Privacy laws are necessary to create an orderly society as they will fights against prejudices, and passion that are inimical to individual liberty.
In its bid to afford protection to private interests and personal information of individual, the European Court of Human Rights has purposely enlarged Article 8 of the Convention so as to preserve the right of privacy. The Case of Mosleyillustrates the point that unwarranted invasion of individuals ‘privacy may attract heavy financial penalty. I believe, this is a prudent principle which most courts should endorse to do justice.
The right to know seems to be a natural human desire, but in pursuance to fulfill that desire, one has a corresponding duty to respect others’ rights. This implies that ‘every right has a corresponding obligation, and no right is given for free. Therefore, it is not for citizens to undermine right to privacy, merely on grounds of taste or moral disapproval of acts /things done in a private space.