Actress Halle Berry testifies in favor of anti-paparazzi bill

June 26, 2013 12:38:42 AM PDT
Actress Halle Berry used her celebrity status at the state Capitol Tuesday. She testified before a Senate committee about the need to better protect the children of public figures from being photographed by paparazzi.

Berry says to cast aside her celebrity status and to look at her as a mom because she wants people to feel safe.

She's frustrated by what she calls the torment the paparazzi has inflicted on her 5-year-old daughter. 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?"' Berry said.

There's already a California law protecting the children of employees who work in places where abortions are performed. But State Sen. Kevin DeLeon, 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," DeLeon said.

DeLeon 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," California Broadcasters Association spokesperson Stan Statham said.

The media and the Motion Picture Association of America oppose the bill because there are already laws that crack down on the paparazzi. They think the DeLeon measure is written too loosely and can impede newsgathering.

"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. We want to ensure that it's aimed at the aggressive conduct," Motion Picture Association spokesperson Melissa Patack said.

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," Berry said.

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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