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Public figures, private lives in digital era

digital era

News Desk |

Two stories have captivated the media in Pakistan more than any others in the last few days – news regarding a reshuffle in the federal cabinet and the Prime Minister Imran Khan allegedly having “developed differences” with the first lady.

The electronic media watchdog swung into action by issuing show-cause notices to several media houses for allegedly airing “fake news” items after the ex-information minister had rebutted the claim about cabinet reshuffle. However, the news turned out to be true and the minister himself lost his portfolio in exchange for another one.

Interestingly, the second news item wherein the complainant is the PM himself, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has ordered to Channel-24 to air an apology within seven days through its show Najam Sethi Ke Saath as penance for what the regulator described as propagation of false news about the prime minister, the media reported.

Read more: Trump had hoped to meet Imran Khan at Davos? – Dr. Moeed Pirzada

Meanwhile, with one news turning out to be true and while the other’s fate still hangs in balance in Pakistan, it was widely reported that Prince William reportedly cheated on Kate Middleton. The media speculated that rumor has it that Prince William has allegedly been unfaithful and has cheated on Kate Middleton. He supposedly had an affair with Rose Hanbury, who happens to be a friend of his wife.

Though there’s no public proof that the rumors are true, and nobody but the public figures (well, there family members as well) can actually reveal what went on. But before PM Khan, his wife, the royals and anyone else affiliated with the developments say something, the news items have once again triggered the debate on how much privacy can, and should, politicians and celebrities – who make their living in the public eye – expect?

Public Figures’ Role in Shaping Views

On one hand, it has been debated that the public figures play an increasing role in shaping our views and mindset of the world, hence, making it essential that they are held accountable for their actions in public and private. They believe the press is within its rights to focus on the private lives of public representatives.

Read more: PM Khan puts five-point agenda before world leaders

On the other hand, it has been argued that one should overlook what is being done in private if the person is performing well in office. However, objection on the latter argument is that it doesn’t define much about the influence the politicians, celebrities, and Royals have over society because of their personal lives.

Some have argued when performance at work does not exempt anyone from the laws of the land then why private lives of the public figures shouldn’t be discussed or accounted for. Panama papers scandal is one example of the public figures’ office and private affairs leading to high-profile corruption cases.

Primarily, the corruption cases against the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members were about their properties and factories but the outcome of the cases have favored the notion that it was not just limited to their personal lives and they should have been accounted for such actions.

Some say public figures give up or ignore their right to privacy when they feel like informing public about a certain issue but complain when media uses them. Others believe that rights have constantly been invaded in today’s digital age.

Read more:Ramiz Raja slams news anchors and opposition for criticising PM Khan for price hike

Surprisingly, at one point, they both give example of PM Khan’s life and political views that have changed with his marriage with Jemima Goldsmith, Reham Khan, and Bushra Bibi since 1995.

Free, Responsible Media?

In the debate, some believe that the press must be free but they must be responsible. While others say when public figures use the media, they can’t complain too much when the media uses them.

For years, the western media says, the tabloid press has made its reputation on the stories involving private lives of public figures and celebrities. Nonetheless, they have simultaneously questioned the extent to which their personal affairs can be discussed.

Commenting on the situation, Jeremy King, the editor of industry paper Media Week, had once told BBC that “unfortunately once you push the toothpaste out of the tube it’s hard to get it back in.”

Read more: No truth to media reports of cabinet shuffle: Fawad Chaudhary

In today’s digital age, it is important for public figures to realize that it can still be possible for them to have a private life but, to a certain extent, they are public property as well. Eventually, they need to come up with strategies to have a balance between the needs of promotion and private life.

Is PM’s Life Private?

“No public figure, least of all a prime minister, can claim that his or her ‘private affairs’ are out of the scope of public scrutiny especially if they impinge on matters covered by Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” Sethi recently tweeted, quoting an excerpt from his article. In his piece, he also mentioned that the channel has been asked: “to immediately appear before its Complaints Committee and defend itself”.

Later, he questioned PEMRA order through a tweet saying that the authority “did not give us [Channel-24] an opportunity to defend this statement”. He went on to say “Kindly let us know which statement Imran Khan finds untrue and objectionable. Also, very strange that you did not give us an opportunity to defend this statement! In fact, what if it turns out to be true later? Will you pay us Rs 10 lacs?”

Keeping the federal cabinet news and its final outcome in view, some question when the reports like “PM Imran vows to stay with Bushra Bibi ‘till last breath’” do not attract or lead to a controversy then why the ones that trigger debate end up in the legal land.

Read more: Imran Khan’s life of lies & cheats exposed finally: GVS Special Report

They say the way PM Khan’s married life and political journey go hand in hand and are frequently discussed now, life of Princess Diana – Prince William’s mother – and the affairs of the royal family were earlier discussed. In fact, press coverage on Diana still stir the debate as to what is the actual limit of the public figures’ private life in digital era. For public figures, it would be safe to say, affording privacy in the digital era invites for more debate and finding new ways.

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