Halle Berry testifies for child protection from paparazzi


Frustrated by what she calls the "torment" the paparazzi has inflicted on her 5-year-old daughter, Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry brought star power to a Sacramento proposal to crackdown on aggressive behavior to photograph or harass a celebrity's or public figure's child.

The 46-year-old expectant mom testified about the problem and showed lawmakers photos of a recent incident at LAX with her child clearly upset at the group the little girl calls "the men."

"I have to yell: 'She's a child. Leave my child alone. Leave my child alone.' We get into the car, and my daughter is now sobbing, and she says to me, 'Mommy, are they going to kills us? Are they trying to kill us?'" said Berry.

There's already a California law protecting the children of employees who work in places where abortions are performed. But state Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) says California needs stronger laws.

"Children continue to fall prey to intentional physical harassment because the law provided for relatively weak penalties," said De Leon.

De Leon proposes to increase the fine to $10,000 and allow civil lawsuits in cases where children are harassed because of their parents' occupation.

"I'm here to protect the First Amendment rights to take pictures and free speech," said Stan Statham, president and CEO, California Broadcasters Association.

The media and the Motion Picture Association of America oppose the bill because there are already laws that crack down on celebrity photographers. They think the De Leon measure is written too loosely and can impede news-gathering.

"In this modern era where every person with a phone is a photographer, we want to ensure that this bill does not encroach on the ability to snap a picture," said Melissa Patack, vice president, Motion Picture Association of America. "We want to ensure that it is aimed at the aggressive conduct."

Berry says her child no longer wants to go to school or anywhere with her.

"'They don't do this to other little kids, why can't you do something, mommy?' and I have to look at my 5-year-old and say, 'Because I have no rights to do anything,'" said Berry.

Despite First Amendment concerns, the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the anti-harassment bill on the promise it will later be tweaked to protect reporters and photographers.

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