"This is a serious breach of our privacy right"
A Lahore cinema has received a lot of attention after it shared CCTV footage of a number of “indecent acts” by several couples on social media.
The DHA Cinema released the footage and it sparked a debate. Night vision cameras in the theatre showed several couples busy engaged in sexual activity.
Despite the fact that families and children may have been present in the theatre, the couples carried on, from kissing to even performing oral sex.
A number of the CCTV videos have circulated on WhatsApp and other platforms.
Explicit footage of couples engaged in sexual activity has happened in other Lahore cinemas, not just DHA Cinema.
Even though their public indecency is shocking, the circulation of the footage is just as scandalous and it has led to Pakistanis in the city questioning their privacy rights.
Former Director-General of the Punjab Chief Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit Salman Sufi spoke about the issue on Twitter. He posted:
“Just found that video recordings of citizens from cinema halls in Pakistan have been shared around.
“This is not acceptable and is a violation of [the] law. We demand that all theatres/public places delete all video recordings that have no recorded safety threat as soon as possible.”
Sufi also stated that a non-disclosure agreement should be added to every ticket that is purchased, which will give people the right to not allow the management to keep their recordings.
He added: “This is a serious breach of our privacy right and can never be allowed.”
Lawyer and digital rights activist Nighat Dad also discussed the violation of privacy and explained that there is a lack of awareness.
She said: “[There is] no accountability around how companies, telecom, public bodies, ISPs retain, process or share citizens data.”
Dad also spoke about similar incidents within cinemas in the past but no one took any action.
“Nobody speaks up because there is so much shame attached to it.”
She added that the circulation of the videos has likely ruined the lives of the people seen in the footage.
On a long-term solution, Dad said that legislation protecting people’s rights needs to be done.
“Awareness sessions should be conducted in schools, colleges and offices to help people know about their rights or who should they reach out to.”
Even though privacy has been talked about, people have pointed out that the couples were performing sex acts in a public place. One wrote:
“Granted leaking such videos is wrong but what about public indecency? I mean cinema is a pretty public place and to be doing such acts there…should account for something.”
Dad responded by saying that signs should be placed in cinemas which would make people become conscious about how they behave.
The Lahore cinema later released a statement: “All our cinemas are recorded to ensure the safety of our customers.
“We will communicate with appropriate signage in our locations that our premises are being recorded. We never record private areas like bathrooms or staff changing room.
“They save recordings for 15 days as their own company policy for audit inspections and customer’s lost and found items.”
Parts of the country are still reeling from the leaked video scandal involving at least two Lahore cinemas.
Security footage recorded by night vision cameras captured real-time images of couples being intimate, unaware that cameras were not only watching – but also sharing their findings across as many social media platforms as possible.
In truth, this should have been treated as a simple matter of public indecency under Section 294(a) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Especially given that certain safeguards are in place to protect women.
These include amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which now provides that action can only be taken by a superintendent of police; dependent on a magistrate’s permission.
Meanwhile, the circulation of explicit material is a criminal offence under both Section 292 of the PPC and the more recent Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016. That the spirit of the law is not being upheld is evident.
Indeed, current cybercrime legislation seems to unduly focus on persuading citizens into starting blasphemous rumours against one another.