Right to Privacy: What you should know about Filming Politicians or anyone in Public Without their Consent in America

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In a viral video, Buhari’s Interior minister Aregbesola was dining in a U.S restaurant when a Nigerian man started filming without his consent. Is the diaspora man wrong? 

The news of the former Governor of Osun state and Minister of the Federal Ministry of Interior of Nigeria Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola’s encounter with a Nigerian American Diaspora is making rounds; both at home and especially within the Nigerian, diaspora community. In case you are yet to see this viral video, you might as well want to take a pause and have a look. 

Although it is not the first time, occurrences like this have transpired between the Nigerian diaspora community members and Nigerian government officials whenever they travel abroad. 

Why did this video garner so much attention? 

Perhaps the reason the video has gotten so much attention is the ensuing question that resulted from the cock and rooster event. The question of “right and rights” did the videographer have the right to have recorded the Minister and was the videographer in the wrong? Was the Minister right, about his rights to privacy? I am no legal expert and wouldn’t pretend to be one. Rather through this piece, I attempt to break down the event clearly so all can better judge the situation from a more critical point of view rather than from an emotional and sentimental one. The Nigerian man in my opinion was wrong for invading the privacy of the minister without his consent to be filmed. The minister, given his political antecedent, ignored, kept mute and hurried away. Was he running from his tainted political records or was he just running from a potentially dangerous man?

What does the U.S Bill of Rights to Privacy Suggest? 

“This is not Nigeria” — Nigerian man kept stating in his confrontation to the Interior Minister, Aregbesola. Privacy generally refers to an individual’s right to seclusion, or right to be free from public interference. Often privacy claims clash with First Amendment rights. The right to privacy often means the right to personal autonomy, or the right to choose whether or not to engage in certain acts or have certain experiences. For example, individuals may assert a privacy right to be “let alone” when the press reports on their private life or follows them around in an intrusive manner on public and private property.

It begs the question; could the Minster rightfully claim such rights? After all, he is a public figure in a foreign land and wasn’t even a citizen of the United States. It is true that the bill of rights/constitutional amendment spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government but what about immigrants in the country? A century-old decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s guarantees apply to every person within U.S. borders, including “aliens whose presence in this country is unlawful.” thus the minister rightly qualifies to be protected by the same, but it isn’t all that simple.

You see, The U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy. There is no straightforward amendment or article in the Constitution that expressly mentions the right to privacy as some of us would think. Could that perhaps justify and protect the Nigerian diaspora man claims or open him up for legal/criminal exposure? 

Several amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been used in varying degrees of success in determining a right to personal autonomy. Dean William Prosser, a torts law expert wrote that there are four distinct types of privacy torts: intrusion upon solitude, public disclosure of private facts, appropriation of another’s name or image, and publishing information that puts a person in a false light.

Indeed the minister could equally sue for trespass and or intrusion on seclusion claim; which applies when someone intentionally intrudes, physically or through electronic surveillance, upon the solitude or seclusion of another. All he needed to do, was to prove that, his private space was intentionally invaded, the invasion was offensive to a reasonable person, the space that the defendant intruded upon is a private one and the intrusion caused him mental anguish or suffering. Perhaps, the minister could also claim the right to publicity, to keep his personal information private, and control the use of his or her identity for unauthorized distribution or commercial promotion assuming that was the intention of the Nigerian man. 

It is clear that the Nigerian man was trying to make a scapegoat of this politician given his political record. However, he failed to communicate specifics; instead he kept mentioning “This is America”; he could have better expressed himself and articulated why he took so much pride in his freedom being in America, since his intention was to educate the minister. 

The Confrontation is a Lesson for Bad Politicians

The event, however confrontational, should indeed serve as a reminder to all the Nigerian leaders in government of the growing pressure and impatience that both Nigerians at home and abroad have towards them. The corruption, insecurity and dissatisfaction in governance will remain a pressure point, especially for years to come if they continue to fault on their promises of good governance. Just like a an online commenter stated,

“Let this intimidation continue so that they will keep their stolen money in Naija. Naija people should make it difficult for them to run away from home to other countries to enjoy our hard earned money  freely over there. They should deny them the peace of mind they went over there for because they refuse to give us peace of mind here. At any rate, I love what that guy did to him. Our people in diaspora should keep revealing them whenever they  are seen around.”

Indeed, the unfortunate assassination of Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe, and the ousting of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka should further sever as a warning and example of the growing global intolerance towards politicians and what is indeed a broken global cultural society.

Authored by Abolaji Omitogun

Edited by Adedayo Fashanu

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