The Birth Of The Royal Child: Where Are The Critics Of The Media On “Privacy”?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Sometimes ago, some members of the international media came under attack for reportedly invading the privacy of the Duke and Duchess of England. The media was blamed at the time of intruding into the privacy of the Duke and Duchess when they visited the Solomon Island. At the time, a saga developed between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Telegraph Magazine of England and a French Magazine for publishing what is referred to as “topless pictures.” The report at the time said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had asked prosecutors in France to launch criminal proceedings against the photographer who took topless pictures of the Duchess and the French magazine which published them. Had it been successful, the move could have led to the paparazzo and the editor of the magazine being jailed for up to a year and fined a maximum of £36,000.

The report said lawyers for the couple are expected to make a formal criminal complaint of breach of privacy and trespass at a court hearing near Paris where they are also expected to be granted an interim civil injunction banning the French magazine closed from printing any more pictures and ordering it to remove all images from its website. The complaint concerns the taking of photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge while on holiday and the publication of those photographs in breach of their privacy.  In the wake of this, William and Kate have appealed to foreign newspapers and magazines to show “common sense and decency” by refraining from publishing further topless photographs.

The Duchess was photographed topless during a break at a chateau in Provence owned by Viscount Linley, the Queen’s nephew, in what St. James’s Palace described as a “grotesque” invasion of privacy.  The photos were first published by the Telegraph Newspaper of England. The paper’s Editor in justifying the paper’s action during a BBC interview said the pictures were taken and published because a Duchess is a “celebrity whose activities the public is eager to know.” He stressed that informing the public on happenings around them especially that which involves celebrities cannot be compromised.

As the debate on the issue continued in September last year, I wrote an article:”The Saga Between The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge And The Media: Was The Media Wrong? In that article, I said that that was an important issue as it relates to the ethics and practice of journalism, especially when it comes to what is known as the “elements” or “characteristics” of news, or “Status Conferral,” as well as people with “status” in the society. In the field of journalism, there are certain reasons why certain situations, happenings or the acts of individuals are highlighted in the media. The element or characteristics of news referred to as “prominence” is the one that is responsible for which the media reports on the activities, actions and behavior of people who are prominent. People, institutions, groups and organizations that fall in this category are always featured in the media. This is not circumscribed to public officials; that is, government officials, but also celebrities and other public figures whose activities and actions are always reported in the media.

On the issue of status, I stated in that article that it is one’s standing in society. Sociologists tell us that status comes in two categories- Ascribed and Achieved. An Achieved Status is one in which the individuals got such because of personal efforts and accomplishments in society, while Ascribed Status covers people who have relationship with people of achieved status. Examples are the members or relatives of the monarch and royal families of any country like in the case of the Duke, a title of honor and nobility that is below that of the Prince and Duchess, the wife or widow of a Duke, as well as public officials’ relatives and prominent public figures’ children or those of celebrities.

Previously as stated, people who find themselves in such category, will always be chased by the media because of their place in society and therefore, it is difficult for one in such situation to claim privacy. This is what makes the issue of evasion of privacy very thin and difficult.  Privacy is referred to as state of seclusion, retirement, solitude and secrecy. The Black’s Law Dictionary, Eight Edition, defines it as, “the condition of or state of being free from public attention to intrusion into or interference with one’s act or decision.” But in the case of the Duke and Duchess, it is difficult to be free from public attention, owing to their position in society, whether it is in good time or bad time.

As I rightly stated in that previous article that the issue of privacy is difficult and thin when people find themselves in certain position in society. This is what is now prevailing following the birth of the royal child by the Duchess of the prince. Reports indicate that since the birth of the child yesterday, media across much of the world have been swept along by royal baby fever, particularly in North America, where newspapers dwell on what the future holds for the youngster.

Now, with this massive media coverage of this child, will people now claim privacy? Furthermore, will the royal family take the media to court on this matter as they threatened in the last September episode? NO, because the issue of prominence in journalism and status in sociology, the Duke and Duchess cannot use the issue of privacy. The media will always chase them. In such a status, whenever the person falls, slips, misbehaves, sneezes or acquires something positive, like the case of the child, the media will poke into that.

I end this article by reproducing some of the comments and views in the international press on the birth of the Royal Child:

“As unabashed monarchists, we’re delighted with this latest addition to the Royal Family,” declares the Toronto Sun. “While we respect the view of our fellow Canadians who prefer that we become a republic, similar to our American friends, we believe tradition is important. That includes Canada’s tradition as a constitutional monarchy.”

“Baby Windsor’s future is bright, if somewhat claustrophobic,” says Toronto-based The Globe and Mail. “Baby Windsor could follow the path of his great-great uncle and decide he doesn’t want to be king… But, all things continuing in a conservative direction, that tot is headed throne-ward. How claustrophobic it must be to have a path laid out for you from birth.”

New Yorkers are spending a “royal bounty on balloons, booze, bets” to celebrate the royal birth, reports the New York Post. “New York City – which you might presume is too cool for such Anglo trivia – is experiencing its own jolt of excitement… Restaurants, bars and shops across town report a flurry of sales related to the new prince.”

“What will the royal baby’s life be like?”, asks Roya Nikkah in The Wall Street Journal. “Wherever the royal baby son goes… so too will the world’s press, desperate to photograph and debate the latest baby-gro, buggy, lock of hair, milk tooth and smile.” But, “as William has demonstrated, when the press overstep the mark with his nearest and dearest, he takes no prisoners”, the paper adds.

This birth “introduces an absolute novelty into the history of the British monarchy”, writes Thomas Kielinger in Die Welt. “Even if Kate had given birth to a girl, the baby would have become an immediate successor to the throne… This explains why this time there was a heightened sense of expectation.”

“First the marriage, now the baby: Prince William and Kate are a source of hope for the stale British monarchy,” writes Carsten Volkery on the Spiegel Online website. “The young, presentable parents are restoring the Windsor firm’s ability to face the future.”

French daily Liberation lists ways in which the birth of the royal baby is different from that of just any baby, including the fact that it stirs republicans into action. “Yours wakes you up in the night, but this baby wakes up the British republican camp. It is a paradox, but at each major royal event they launch a communications plan to benefit from the excitement.” However, the current campaign “has not found much of an echo”, adds the paper.

“The frenzy will not end with the birth of the heir,” predicts Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta. “Bookmakers are already accepting bets on the first word that the royal baby will say and even the name of its future first girlfriend or boyfriend. Amid the excitement, the British are prepared to place bets on the smallest details related to the heir.”

“The Great Kate Wait is over, and the UK – and Australia – has a new third in line to the throne,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The paper’s readers weigh in, too: “The pressure on the young royal couple right now must be extraordinary: ‘Does one use cloth nappies or disposables?’ for example.”

In China, Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily reports that royal birth betting and memorabilia are fuelling Britain’s “souvenir economy”. Business opportunities brought by the royal baby have “injected vigour and vitality into the market”, the paper says. But it concludes that this will not be enough to turn around the UK’s ailing retail sector.

Meanwhile, leading Chinese news portal Sina is running a royal baby page which features thousands of comments. A Sina online poll solicits suggestions for the best name for the new arrival. Edward, Philip, David and George are proving popular.

“What is the secret of the British royal family, because of which we were all in labour yesterday?” Boaz Bismuth muses in Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom. “Who cares about Cameron, Hollande, Nasrallah or Obama on a day on which a new hero is born to the royal family? The kingdom is dead? Long live the kingdom!”

Indian newspaper coverage of the birth is largely factual, and coverage in the Pakistani press is scant. But Pakistani journalist Naheed Mustafa tweets: “Today’s news: someone you will never meet had a baby you will never know.”

NB: Atty Wesseh is a part timer instructor in the Department of Mass Communication at the United Methodist University in Monrovia. He previously taught also as a part time instructor at the University of Liberia in similar department. He is also a graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Lawyer at the University of Liberia.

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