The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paparazzi vs privacy, Britain to Bollywood

London, Dec. 18: Kareena Kapoor would probably receive a sympathetic hearing from Britain's Press Complaints Commission (PCC) but it seems unlikely she would be able to convince the British courts that her reputation had been damaged because a newspaper had published photographs of her kissing her boyfriend in a restaurant.

Kareena and Shahid Kapur are claiming that the photographs of them published in Mid Day are fake, but the paper insists that the pictures are genuine ' taken with a mobile phone camera which was switched on to video mode ' and that no law was broken.

A spokesman for the PCC told The Telegraph that he appreciated the point that kissing in public, which is perfectly acceptable in Britain, may not be in Indian culture. 'What is considered acceptable in one country may not be in another,' he acknowledged.

A journalist summed up the reality of how British newspapers attempt to remain within the law: 'People are considered fair game if they are photographed in a public place.'

According to the journalist, the concept of how an individual's human rights can be infringed by invasion of privacy has become a Europe-wide issue.

In Britain, which has adopted an increasingly 'celebrity-driven culture', the frontiers of what is considered permissible have been rolled back. Although what is 'in the public interest' is not always what is 'of interest to the public', the PCC, a voluntary body to which all major news organisations are signed up, has drawn up rules of engagement.

In a case such as the Kareena-Shahid kissing controversy, clause 3 of the PCC's code of practice would apply, the spokesman said.

This states: 'Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent.'

The clause adds: 'It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent.' There is a note for editors: 'Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.'

Did Kareena and Shahid have a 'reasonable expectation' that they would not be snapped when they were in the Rain restaurant, assuming they were there at all'

This would be one for the lawyers to settle.

The law on privacy is complicated but the spokesman said someone in a church could assume a degree of privacy even though strictly speaking the place was public.

The PCC is gathering material on a number of specific cases to help provide guidance to newspapers.

In a case two years ago, one Hugh Tunbridge complained that he and a companion had been photographed in a caf' without their permission. The photograph had accompanied a review of the caf'.

Surprisingly, the complaint was upheld by the PCC, which said: 'The commission considered that, while the context of the photograph's use might appear to have been trivial, an important matter of principle was at stake. Clause 3 of the code makes clear that private places are 'public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy' while clause 4 adds that individuals must not be photographed in such places without their consent. In this case, the commission considered that customers of a quiet caf' could expect to sit inside such an establishment without having to worry that surreptitious photographs would be taken of them and published in newspapers.'

The high-profile cases, which have disturbed newspapers, include the action brought by supermodel Naomi Campbell, who was photographed in a public place leaving an establishment where she was receiving treatment for drug dependence. She won, although her victory was challenged.

A slightly different right was established by actor Catherine Zeta-Jones, who sold her wedding party pictures exclusively to OK! magazine to find that a spoiler had appeared in the rival Hello! She, too, won.

On the question of obscenity, Kareena would find it even harder to prove her case in a British context. This is a nation which has been regaled by tabloid pictures of 'Fergie' ' as Prince Andrew's wife, the Duchess of York, is popularly called ' having her toes sucked by her financial adviser while the couple was on holiday.

Imran Khan's ex wife, Jemima, and her boyfriend are not thought to have complained about the photographs of the couple practically having sex.

Although the Obscene Publications Act would govern what offends public decency, a photograph of a couple kissing would be considered reasonably tame. If Kareena and Shahid were photographed in a more intimate situation, they would need to demonstrate that the image was snatched through their bedroom. They would not win if the pictures were taken on a public beach.

What complicates the legal situation is that many actors, desperate for publicity, arrive at an understanding with the paparazzi. Revealing photographs of them would be taken, say getting out of a car or in a night club, but these would have been arranged in advance.

Depending on circumstances, the price of fake pictures can be high, though. After the Daily Mirror had published pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, the paper's editor, Piers Morgan, was forced to resign when it became clear the images had been mocked up.

To win in a British court, Kareena would need to prove that her reputation had been badly damaged by the kissing pictures. In the unlikely event that she won, the courts could express disapproval of her action by awarding her derisory damages.

There is also the possibility that if Kareena took on the press, tabloid newspapers would invest a fortune in digging up every unflattering aspect of her life. The normal practice is to buy up former boyfriends/husbands, who then claim: 'She was bad in bed/ she wanted it five times a night.'

Unless very wealthy like Zeta-Jones, most actors know it's wiser to leave them well alone.

Someone like Kareena could argue that the moral standards for an Asian woman are different. But defence lawyers would paint a contrary case by dragging up the case of Bangladeshi secretary Faria Alam, who has sold her vivid kiss-and-tell account of life with Sven-Goran Eriksson, the England football coach.

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