Invasion of Privacy

The famous case of invasion of privacy, with Arthur Ashe being in the centre of it, acquired prominence more than twenty years ago.

However, despite its age, many modern moralists still discuss it and its significance. It is also useful for those people who believe that media intrusion in somebodys life is unethical. Arthur Ashe was the first Black man to win a Grand Slam title in professional tennis. The man was kind and just, he participated in various social activities, was known for his commitment to civil rights, and obtained 33 singles titles. In spite of all his achievements and virtues, one single case has completely changed his entire reputation. Ashe acquired AIDS, and this news became generally known without his permission. One crafty journalist working at USA Today has published the story despite Ashes unwillingness to share his private information. Arthur Ashe believed in the idea of freedom of speech. However, he also believed that it was unethical for anyone to intrude a familys private matters. After the fact of invasion of privacy, Ashe felt shame because of the prevalent gossips about his drug addiction and homosexual relationships. Although he denied all of the gossips, the effect of the news was nevertheless evident. Arthur Ashe died of pneumonia four days after his public speech about AIDS and ten months after the case under consideration took place.

The case of Arthur Ashe is an example of media-related invasion of privacy, which is usually cruel, unethical, immoral, and does not prove its value. The journalist was actually Ashes old friend, Doug Smith, who took advantage of his trust and lied to Ashe that he wanted to meet and discuss Ashes book about African American athletes. In fact, the journalist actually wanted Ashe to confess whether he had AIDS or not. The tennis-player understood that he had no choice but to reveal the truth to the public. Thus, there is a dilemma: did the journalist have the right to disclose Arthur Ashes secret regarding his disease or was he actually morally obliged to give Ashe a choice in deciding whether to publish this information in media or not? Although many journalists and media representatives might support Mr. Smiths desire to disclose the information regarding the disease of the public person Arthur Ashe, the principles of media ethics entail that a public person has every right to privacy, and that journalists should make a distinction between what people need to know and about what they just want to gossip about.


The main problem of the analyzed case is the fact that as a result of the information lead Ashe felt pressured and even forced to tell that he had indeed HIV and AIDS. On the one hand, Ashe could choose to lie to the public and deny any allegations. However, he was a just man who could not lie even to unfamiliar people. Thus, he felt compelled to tell the truth and confirmed that he was indeed ill. Ashe wanted to protect his wife and their 5-year-old daughter and did not want his child to find out that her father was deadly sick. Nevertheless, the journalists did not take into account his desires, since they believed that public had the right to know that their idol had AIDS. This case aroused debates since two different opinions appeared. Some people believed that Arthur Ashe was not guilty, and the blame should be attributed to those medical workers who conducted the blood transfusion procedure during the surgery that Ashe underwent in 1983. If Ashe acquired AIDS from drug use or sexual relationships, the press could substantiate their claim by demonstrating that the tennis-player lead a dissipated life. However, in fact he was a model family man, a successful sportsman, and a good person overall. Thus, journalists had no right to shame him and blame him for his disease.

The journalists actions influenced Ashes life negatively. First, Ashe could not decide himself when and how to reveal the truth about his disease. He was cornered, while thepublic perceived his life as a mere object for gossips. Instead of spending the rest of his life with his family in safety, the man was always under discussion, and his case appeared in the news frequently. The responsibility for this case lies upon the press and mostly upon Mr. Smith, the journalist who was the first to find out the truth. The man ignored the fact that he knew Mr. Ashe and was one of his friends, and though only about his career. His actions prove that social media often overstep the line between humanity and thirst for fame. Even today, there are numerous discussion about the lives of public persons on the social media, with the most intimate details. Moreover, the so-called yellow press often publishes outright dishonest information, thus hazarding the lives of many innocent people. In the case of Ashe, the journalist acted in a selfish way and did not think about Ashe as a human being.

Possible Solution

There was a possible solution for Arthur Ashes problem. After discovering the truth, the journalist should have asked the tennis-player whether he wanted this information to be revealed to the public. The representative of the media should have thought about the media ethics, as well as weigh the pros and cons of the case. In order to reach a just conclusion, it was necessary to apply the theory of utilitarianism and find out who would gain more benefit from not telling the truth about Ashes AIDS. It is evident that the audience could very well live without knowing about the disease of their idol. However, Arthur Ashe, his wife and daughter, as well as his other close relatives and friends, would suffer from such intrusion into his private life. Consequently, Ashe would be much happier if the article were not published. Unfortunately, the journalist was too selfish to think about such a problem solution.

The other way for the journalist to be more loyal and ethical was to give Ashe some time. Ashe wanted to wait until the disease would be impossible to conceal, and he had this right to wait. If only the press gave him some time to think and decide when to share this bad news with people, Ashes life might have ended differently. At least, he could have a rest and enjoy a safe life with his close people for a longer time. Thus, the press had two choices to conceal the information or give Ashe a chance to tell it himself. However, neither the first nor the second opportunities were realized.

The case study of invasion of Arthur Ashes privacy demonstrates that sometimes mass media has no regard of ethics. Journalists often interfere with public persons lives and consider what kind of information the readers want to know about them. However, often their actions are immoral and inhumane. In Ashes case, the media represented the tennis-player as a drug consumer and gay person, who acquired AIDS by having a wild lifestyle, even though he was infected during a heart surgery. The case study shows that social media representatives should be responsible for their actions since every person, even a public one, has the right to privacy. Ashes right was to decide when to disclose his disease. Nevertheless, he was deprived of his right and was left without any choice. There was a positive way to solve the problem, however, the journalists had different points of view, and Ashes last months of life were full of constant intrusions and gossips. There is no approbation for the journalists actions since they did not perceive Ashe as a human being with his rights to privacy.

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