Anti-paparazzi legislation championed by Halle Berry has been signed into California law by state governor Jerry Brown. Put forward by state senator Kevin de León, the bill sought to prevent harrassment of the children of public figures, and Berry testified before the California state assembly in its support.
Senate Bill 606 asked for an increase in penalties for anyone attempting to record or photograph a child because of their parent or guardian’s employment in a manner that “seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes” them.
In a statement, the actor expressed her appreciation that the law had been passed. “I started this fight with a great deal of hope and a bit of uncertainty so I cannot express my immense gratitude that Gov. Brown has recognized, and acted to remedy, the plight of children who are tormented because of the identity or prominence of their parents. On behalf of my children, it is my hope that this is the beginning of the end for those overly aggressive paparazzi whose outrageous conduct has caused so much trauma and emotional distress.”
In her testimony earlier this year, Berry had told lawmakers: “We’re moms here who are just trying to protect our children. These are little innocent children who didn’t ask to be celebrities. They didn’t ask to be thrown into this game and they don’t have the wherewithal to process what’s happening. We don’t have a law in place to protect them from this.”
Fellow actor Jennifer Garner testified alongside Berry, and cited the experience of being stalked as contributing factor. “There are violent, mentally-ill stalkers who can now get close to my kids by simply following mobs of photographers and blending in,” she said. “Like the very man who threatened to cut the babies out of my belly. Who was arrested waiting behind our daughter’s preschool, standing among the throng of paparazzi. That man is still in prison, but I have no doubt there are others like him still out there.”
The measure has passed despite the opposition of the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association and the National Press Photographers Association, who expressed concerns over restrictions on newsgathering. De Leon’s office countered that the measure is tailored to avoid first amendment concerns, specifying that it is photographer’s conduct being targeted, not the act of taking a picture itself.