Should Politicians be granted the same Right to Privacy as Citizens?

By Tanya Napolean


Black’s Law Dictionary defined Privacy as the “right to be let alone; the right of a person to be free from any unwarranted publicity; the right to live without any unwarranted interference by the public in matters with which the public is not necessarily concerned “.

With the advancement of media, political leader’s “personal” lives have become increasingly scrutinized by the public; to the point where it could be argued that those seeking or holding elected office are frequently denied a level of privacy proportionate with sufficiently defending fundamental human rights.

The media is frequently filled with reports about public figures’ misbehavior for example, movie stars, sports personalities, and politicians, which, in turn, frequently result in concerns about the “breach” of these public figures’ privacy. And the truth revealed is usually detrimental to the public figure in question.

Furthermore, because of public disclosure of their “private” behavior, the careers of several high-profile public personalities have come to a sudden and abrupt halt.

The character of representative democracy, particularly during election seasons, creates an almost unrivaled need for damaging information about one’s opponents’ personal and professional lives. In such an atmosphere, it is predictable that the correct extent of one is “right” to privacy becomes a point of contention.

If one recognizes privacy as a fundamental aspect of what it is to be human, then all persons are, by definition, entitled to a prima facie protection of their privacy.

Laws relating to Privacy

Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence nor to attack upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” [1]

Furthermore, Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which India is a party) states “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home, and correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation” [2]

Finally, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights states Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence; there shall be no interference by a public authority except such as is in accordance with law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.[3]

The key question is ‘Do these laws and right to privacy apply to Politicians?’

Why do Politicians deserve privacy?

Politicians and the political groups with which they are associated willingly provide information that is usually biased and anticipated. In such cases, there would be no evidence that a nominee for public office possesses certain character traits or has been involved in any behavior that would raise questions about their suitability to contest in the elections.

And the accuracy of the information provided by the nominees is frequently disputed, there have been several recorded cases of information on candidates being purposefully misrepresented or entirely incorrect.

Politicians are not just elected officials, but also citizens of a nation, and they have the right to keep their matters private. In other words, citizens of a country have some fundamental rights, and keeping their personal lives private is extremely important, thus publishing news and articles that disclose their personal lives is deemed a violation of the law.

For instance, In the United Kingdom, a politician filed a lawsuit in the high court against a media organization for publishing photographs obtained without their knowledge while dining with their family in a restaurant.

Hence, it is their fundamental right, and any intrusion by the press into their personal life should have profound consequences.

As a result, there is a moral duty not to publish anything in a newspaper about a politician’s personal life that is unrelated to their profession.

Why don’t Politicians deserve Privacy?

There are a variety of reasons why politicians should be granted less privacy than ordinary people. This statement can be justified in three points-

  • Politicians seek elected positions and thus enter the public sphere willingly.
  • The public nature of the primary responsibilities by elected officials justifies their behavior being scrutinized more than that of non-politicians.
  • The public nature/impact of the responsibilities held by elected politicians justifies their behavior being scrutinized more than that of non-politicians.

The nature of politicians’ jobs and obligations presents an exceptionally compelling argument in favor of them being subjected to a higher level of public scrutiny than their citizens.

Those who are elected to political office are involved in decision making that have a major impact on the development and quality of life of all citizens. Politicians are elected to such positions and, as a result, are given such authority.

That definition reflects politicians responsible to the people for their actions while in government, and that responsibility gives rise to a “public right to know” about their behavior and personality which can often include their personal life.

The public must be aware of politicians’ every move, whether public or private because they are public servants. Most politicians are frightened of being exposed by the media. It also provides the public with information and the impression that they are living under a competent and secure government.

Furthermore, politicians willingly enter the “public” sphere and, in doing so, deliberately expose themselves to a level of scrutiny by the media that is likely to be far greater than that which non-public people are subjected to.

The job title “politician” is inherently “open” in nature, and it entails leveraging the public sphere to achieve certain goals, such as re- election or pushing a clear ideological or policy agenda or project.

Politicians stimulate and precipitate an amount of focus to their professional and personal characteristics and actions that is greater than that created by “standard” members of the society when they enter and use the public arena.

There is also strong consensus that news about elected or top public officials is less limited, especially when it concerns their personal lives.

“The public has a right to be informed,” according to the European Court of Human Rights (2004) “the public has a right to be informed i.e., certain circumstances can even extend to aspects of the private life of public figures, particularly where politicians are concerned.”[4]


Due to the level of public scrutiny, several highly qualified individuals may be discouraged from seeking political office because they do not want to be subjected to the scrutiny. Hence, it can be concluded that not all aspects of a politician’s private life should be publicized or scrutinized.

The media should make sure that they reveal the essential information that should help the voters in deciding which candidate will receive their vote, therefore assisting in the fulfillment of a basic aspect of representative democracy.

Furthermore, media companies that breach certain privacy laws should be punished. However, such a situation should not negate the citizen’s ability to make informed decisions as to who will better represent their interests in parliament.


  1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights,, (last visited Jul 8, 2021)
  2. Right to Privacy under UDHR and ICCPR, Privacy Bytes, visited Jul 8, 2021).
  3. Article 8: Respect for your private and family life | Equality and Human Rights Commission,, (last visited Jul 8, 2021).
  4., (last visited Jul 8, 2021).

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