So, now it is not just the journalists who are facing criticism at the Leveson inquiry, but the paparazzi too. Celebrities have been slating pushy paparazzi stating that they are half the problem UK journalism today.
Celebs have voiced their anger on how they feel the paparazzi today intimidates and stalks them leaving them no right to privacy, as well as invading the privacy of the people in the public interest, treating them with little regard or respect.
Both Anne Diamond and Max Mosley have felt the paparazzi have intruded on private grief. Anne Diamond was horrified when a photograph was splashed in the papers of her and her husband carrying her baby son’s coffin. Likewise, Max Mosley was photographed when he was collecting his son’s personal effects after his son died of a drug overdose. He just couldn’t understand why people would be interested in such a horrific and desperate situation.
I know photographers have to make a living, but these examples of intrusion of privacy quite frankly make me sick. Has the hounding mentality of the paparazzi got to stop? Is searching through bins and waiting outside celebrities’ homes investigative journalism or is it an unacceptable case of stalking?
The Leveson inquiry is raising issues that have existed for a long time. It is giving celebrities the chance to voice their anger on a platform that could see privacy laws to change.
However, the problem is how to enforce that change? Like the issue of unpaid internships, it is difficult to control a widespread problem like this and know how to correctly monitor the situation.
The British Press Photographers Association fought their corner by stating that they are being verbally abused by those from the celebrity and entertainment industry. They felt that they were being unfairly represented, as for such a diverse group of professional photographers, freelance paparazzi and eager citizen journalists you simply cannot tarnish them all with the same brush.
But how will judges separate the law-abiding photographers from the nasty bin searching knock ya granny down paparazzi? (Ask Hugh Grant on that one).
The trouble is today press photographers are so vast and varied it is difficult to track them down. Especially the nasty ones. Hugh Grant claims the freelance photographers are the worst, whom he describes as being “increasingly recruited from the criminal underworld”, while he depicts staff photographers as not too bad, as they “occasionally show a modicum of decency”. In fact today’s stats from the BPPA show that most photographers are entirely freelance (48 per cent – lets hope they’re nice) with most photographers working for agencies rather than being directly employed by newspapers.
This makes it even trickier for judges to enforce a solution, as they cannot direct the newspapers on how to manage their photographers if they are freelance.
Both, Dr. Gerry McCann and the BPPA propose solutions – McCann’s answer was that photographers should seek permission when taking a picture of a celebrity or a person of public interest when they are in a public place.
However, whilst this may help control the celebrity’s or person of interest’s right to privacy it does compromise the freedom of the press. Winning shots of the 7/7 bombings and shots of notorious knife thugs are hardly going to agree to permission. It will take away the natural element of winning journalism shots, so everything will become staged and more of a PR stint than it already is.
The BPPA resisted bringing in strict French style privacy laws but propose to draw up ethnical guidelines with codes of behaviour and etiquette for photographers to adhere to. Plus they intend to propose solutions to help control the problem of unethical photographers and citizen journalists. Sounds much better, control without completely comprising the freedom of the press.
So perhaps the Leveson inquiry is actually a good thing, perhaps celebrities will get their much craved for privacy. But a vital point the BPPA made was that as long as there is an increasing market for celebrity images (and I expect there always will be) photographers will carry on chasing celebrities. Neil Turner, vice chair of the BPPA stated that when pictures of Hugh Grant’s newborn baby are sold for a high-five figure sum, some people will “body swerve ethics” and let the concept of good manners slip to get that much desired shot.
So, do you think press photographers should be monitored? And if so, do you think it is possible without compromising the freedom of the press? Or do you agree with BPPA’s Neil Turner’s view that as long as there is such a big market for celebrity images there will always be upset celebrities…
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look