Do public figures have the right to plead privacy? It’s an old debate, but one which has again reared its head – horns and all – in the wake of those Kate pictures.
That the photos show a British royal baring her bits (even if unwittingly so) while holidaying in the south of France has also fanned the flames of the centuries-old enmity that has existed between the neighbouring nations, with comments like “filthy frogs” and “shameful French scum” proliferating the social media sites.
Although the anti-French sentiment being levelled by the Brits is undoubtedly also under- pinned by memories of their former princess losing her life in a Paris tunnel while fleeing from the prying eyes of the paparazzi, their outrage is nonetheless justified.
The manner in which the now- notorious images were captured, and their subsequent publication, was an outright assault on Kate’s private person.
Those within the “she had it coming” camp – Donald Trump among them – have adopted the typical “famous folk can’t expect to have their cake and eat it” outlook (which is to say, it’s hypocritical to court the cameras when it suits them to do so, only to then slap a privacy banner across their activities when it doesn’t), and usually, I’d have my tent firmly pitched in their corner.
But there are boundaries – if not from a publicity perspective, certainly from a human decency one – and these were brazenly violated by the photographer who set up shop on a road outside the 259ha villa where Kate and Will were holidaying, and zoomed in over the equivalent of two rugby fields in order to secure his shots.
In justifying her decision to publish the offending images, editor of France’s Closer magazine, Laurence Pieau, dismissed the sense of indignation surrounding the photos, stating: “They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like millions of women you see on the beaches throughout Europe.”
In so saying, Pieau conveniently ignores the glaring point that those millions of women chose to expose themselves in public; Kate did not. And if indeed we were to buy into Pieau’s “all breasts are equal” position, why then does she not offer hundreds of thousands of euros for snapshots of their boobies, too?
However, if one were to play devil’s advocate, it could also be argued that Pieau (and many other members of the media before her) was simply adhering to the basic business principle of supply and demand: if the public weren’t so morbidly fascinated by every minute detail of well-known personalities’ lives – and salacious gossip and intimate pics of them in particular – there would be no market for such material.
After all, it’s no accident that the biggest selling newspapers in the UK are the trashy tabloids, while television’s highest- rated shows are those offering a fly-on-the-wall look at how the other half lives.
So just where do the media draw the line between public interest and “publishing purely to bring in the big bucks”?
Well, in Europe the line is gradually, if resolutely, being drawn for them; privacy has now been classed as a human – and legal – right under the European Convention of Human Rights. Just what that will mean in terms of exposing the questionable personal conduct of those in positions of political power remains to be seen.
But the Duchess of Cambridge and her ilk will undoubtedly be gleefully grinning at this develop- ment which, if nothing else, might make the increasingly intrusive celebrity media think carefully before evoking every unethical method simply to secure their story.
LARA DE MATOS