Monday, October 19, 2009

Privacy, Scandal & Misinformation

Privacy, scandal and misinformation are continually negotiated by the media. Often, privacy must be compromised to get at the truth of a scandal, which boosts ratings. During a scandal, misinformation can become the focus of media, continually updating the latest truth.

Almost every French president has been part of a scandal in some capacity, most notably Mitterand for hidden health issues and an illegitimate daughter Mazarine Pingeot, below.

Sarkozy has made the press mainly for his personal relationships. He was married in 1982 and had two children, with the best man in his wedding later being a direct political opponent. He then officiated the wedding of Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz in 1988 and in 1989 she left her husband for Sarkozy and they continued an affair until they were married in 1996. They had one son. In 2007 Sarkozy divorced Cecilia and met Carla Bruni who he married in Feb 2008. Bruni is an Italian born French singer and modeled who previously dated Jagger.
Read more on politics and love making the press:

However, due to the French legal structure, all citizens, from president to peasant, have the right to paparazzi free private lives.

French Privacy Law
Europe and Scotland allow political critique as the “life blood of democracy.” By contrast the rest of Europe still operate under Napoleonic code. This was a civil code established in 1804 and integrated into law that remains to this day. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified. The code also protected the civil servants from slander or insult, which makes it illegal in many European countries.

Raymond Kuhn an authority on the topic of French privacy law writes: France exhibits some of the same tendencies in political self-promotion and media intrusion as other advanced liberal democracies, with greater emphasis on marketing and image projection by politicians and a more investigative media than in the past. The cross-national differences, however, are even more pronounced. First, there is a high level of legal protection of individual privacy, including that of politicians. Second, there is a lack of a ‘tabloid culture’ among mainstream news media. Third, French public opinion is unwilling to regard aspects of a politician's private life as part of the public domain. As a result, although the dividing line between politicians' public images and private lives has become less clear-cut over time, the distinction still remains more marked in France than in Britain or the United States.

In "The Public and Private in Contemporary French Politics," Kuhn explains that in terms of the interface between the public and private spheres, media coverage of politicians in contemporary France has been marked by … a high level of legal protection accorded to their private lives under the terms of legislation introduced in 1970 that is applicable to all citizens…

French police collected mug shots of all of the paparazzi present near Princess Diana’s crash

Article 9” of the Civil Code protect French presidents and ordinary citizens.
Expressed consent is needed for
-private life information
-photos of private life
-“False Light,” presentation can be challenged
The fine for breaking this law is 45,000 euros
However the problem is that “private life” is not properly defined. Being outside has been ruled public and non-French citizens in France are not entirely protected.

Since the 1970's the issue of privacy has extended to the web. The French Liberty of Communication Act was adopted on June 28th, 2000. The Act requires all persons wishing to post content on the Internet to identify themselves, either to the public, by publishing their name and address on their website (in the case of a business) or to their host provider (in the case of a private individual). Earlier provisions, which would have imposed large penalties and jail sentences on anybody violating this requirement and required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to check the accuracy of the personal details given to them, were dropped in the final version of the legislation.

French political blog “No Parasan!”

Kuhn writes, the trend on the part of politicians towards the mediatisation of their private lives has been amplified by the routinisation of the internet as a medium of political communication, and in particular by the spread of the blog’ phenomenon. The blog allows a politician to bypass the traditional intermediary filters and gatekeepers of the mainstream news media. In terms of process, the production of blog content is fully under the control of the politician as source and so can be put into the public sphere unmediated. With regard to content, the nature of the blog allows for a mix of public and private information to be disseminated: politicians may not only give their views on public events, but can also control the release of more personalised information, including elements of their private lives if they so choose.

In Strategy of Deception, Paul Virilio is writing about the media and political climate at the end of the 20th century. He begins by talking about the urban wasteland, a place of poverty of information. In places where there is less education and less media, there is also less truth and law available to people, meaning more power for misinformation. The premise of the book is that the strategy of deception is advanced planning of information. Virilio describes undisclosed government support of paramilitary groups, ultimately “promoting the lawless no-go areas of the world’s urban wastelands. We can see then that the current legal caviling is merely a smokescreen – disinformation on an industrial scale." Virilio also emphasizes the great lawlessness of the former Yugoslavia – kidnapping, extortion, torture, murder, arms and drug trafficking. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) intervened with strategic bombing ultimately removing Yugoslavian presence.

Virilio continues that it is already difficult to distinguish true from false online and also still a lawless place where criminals can invade power systems. Virilio also discusses the role of information jamming, the practice of blocking communication through destruction of satellites or website interference. It is different from hacking into systems and information warfare which is strategically placed media.

Italian Wiretapping Scandal
Wiretapping is a direct invasion of privacy and is often associated with both scandal and misinformation. During 2006, Italy reached a tipping point of wiretap reports. There were wiretaps being reported from business CEO’s to World Cup referees. It was discovered that the commercial provider Telecom Italia was actually to blame and was the first ever major corporate wiretapping of civilian cell phones. Both Vodafone and Ericson confirmed their phones had been used. The result was a law preventing wiretapped conversation in court. Two chiefs of security for Telecom Italia then died within 6 month period. Investigations into the alleged suicides of both Adamo Bove in Italy and Costas Tsalikidis in Greece raise questions about more than the suspicious circumstances of their deaths but no journalist took on an investigation for the public. Italian independent media released the statement that “As more troubling revelations come out of Europe, it may become more difficult to ignore how easily spying programs can be hijacked for illegitimate purposes. The brave soul who pursues this line of inquiry, however, should fear for his or her life.”

Most US wire tapping is done by the government on mobile phones. The DCS 3000 is a wiretapping technology used by the FBI.
A British company suggests assuming that all calls are being heard and gives some tips.

Promotion of Accurate Information
One way to respond to scandal is through media campaigns that address the scandal directly. There was negative media coverage of the death of the Sudanese refugee Aamir Ageeb on board Lufthansa flight LH558 from Frankfurt to Cairo. The 30-year-old was so mishandled by three officials of the federal border patrol that he suffocated; the border guard forced him to wear a motorcycle helmet, tied his hands and feet, and, at take off, violently pushed his head down to his knees with all his strength. Lufstansa changed its policy in 2000 to be more accommodating and launched a media campaign but they were continually accused of having a “Deportation Class.”

Media can also function promote accurate, public information. Below are examples clarify the laws about the counterfeit trade.

Finally, every individual can help promote accurate information through the internet. See SOS Georgia: "We built this web site to be a clearinghouse for information about Georgia during the war and now the occupation…Here at SOS Georgia we are striving to present the true facts about what is really going on, stories from Refuges and people on the scene, contact information for source for Journalists and a way for supporters of Georgians around the world to connect with one another, exchange ideas and make plans for protest and rallies. Most of all we are trying out best to keep Georgia free from Russian occupation as an independent country with strong ties to the west."

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