Leaked videos bring privacy law into focus


–FIA fails to act against gross violation of citizens’ privacy through leaking of intimate videos


LAHORE: Recent CCTV footages of couples engaging in acts of intimacy in a cinema hall and a hospital’s private room, which were leaked on social media ostensibly by employees of both facilities, have raised concerns about citizens’ privacy and brought the inefficiency of state institutions in protecting the rights of people into focus.

While the public had been quick in questioning the morality of the acts as soon as the videos went viral, one factor that remains unaddressed is the gross violation of citizens’ privacy.

Under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, an offender may be imprisoned for five years for violating a person’s privacy with or without a fine of Rs10 million. The law explicitly states that whoever facilitates the production and distribution of material that breaches someone’s privacy shall be liable to imprisonment for six months with or without fine of Rs50,000.

Speaking to Pakistan Today, Khurram Chughtai, an expert in privacy laws, said that this is a very alarming situation as it is a gross attack on the privacy of citizens.

“I am stunned over the shameful acts of the hospital staff and cinema management who leaked the videos on social media,” he added.

Saiqa Javed, an expert in criminal law, said that the state must ensure protection of citizens’ privacy. She cited the example of a recent First Information Report (FIR) which was lodged by a judge over a video about the legal fraternity which also contained inappropriate content. She said that the law should hold the violators accountable so that justice can be served.

Advocate Aftab Bajwa said that according to the electronic crimes law, if someone displays or transfers ‘immoral content’ through electronic devices, he may be sentenced to five years behind bars. He said that the scope of this law extends to those who display leaked videos in press conferences.

“Maryam Nawaz played Judge Arshad Malik’s video in her press conference,” he added.

Barrister Ali Zafar also shared a similar opinion. He said those who leaked the videos on social media can be tried under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. However, he added that there is no specific law about the protection of employees’ privacy at their workplace.

When contacted, FIA Lahore Cybercrime Wing Assistant Director Munam Chaudhry said that the leaked videos were in clear violation of privacy laws. He said that stern action would be taken against the violators if the victims could be identified or if they moved any application before the bureau. “The bureau may also take action against the culprits on its own accord as well,” he added.