LOS ANGELES – LA lawmaker wants anti-paparazzi 'safety zone' ordinance
Eds: ADDS comment from First Amendment group.
With BC-CA—Britney Spears
By GREG RISLING
Associated Press Writer
(AP) — A city councilman on Friday proposed an ordinance to create a buffer zone between celebrities and the paparazzi who often swarm around them.
Councilman Dennis Zine said the measure would require several feet of space between photographers and celebrities to ensure a "personal safety zone."
"This is about common decency," Zine said following a City Council meeting. "We don't want to put the media out of business, but there has to be some reason when they do their job."
Zine's motion proposing the ordinance said the buffer space must be big enough to allow cars and people to pass safely. It did not specify what penalties, if any, someone would face if someone violated the measure.
Last month, Britney Spears was taken from her home by paramedics amid a frenzy of photographers who crowded and chased the ambulance. This week she was again hospitalized, but a phalanx of police vehicles and a helicopter escorted the ambulance.
The Los Angeles Times reported the motorcade cost the Los Angeles Police Department an estimated $25,000. A police spokesman did not confirm the figure Friday, but Zine, a former officer, said he wants Spears to repay the city for the police services.
The motion notes that the paparazzi "are becoming increasingly aggressive in their tactics, posing a clear danger not only to the people they are trying to photography, but to the general public around them."
"It has gotten outrageous," Zine said of the intense media coverage of celebrities. "If we don't do anything, we could see someone seriously injured or killed."
Pamm Fair, the deputy national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild, said the organization supports such an ordinance. She said there has been a growing concern by SAG members about the conduct of the tabloid press.
"I think there is a difference between taking a photo and getting in someone's face and ambushing them," Fair said. "We fully support this effort. Whatever we can do to create a safe environment for our members, their children and residents of this city."
The measure could resemble one that was enacted during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles where protesters were kept away from entrances into Staples Center. Because the city adopted that policy, Zine believes his proposal would pass legal muster.
Peter Scheer, executive director for the California First Amendment Coalition, said he's sympathetic to the spirit of the motion, but he believes it's not necessary to create another law.
"There is certain behavior you want to curtail and it seems that police and prosecutors ought to be able to do that with the tools they already have," Scheer said. "The question is if there is a willingness in those offices to do it."
A phone message left with the American Civil Liberties Union was not immediately returned.
Zine's motion asks the city attorney and police officials to propose new restrictions on paparazzi to be discussed at the City Council's Public Safety Committee hearing in coming weeks, where photographers as well as actors could testify.
Zine said he hoped it will win council approval and take effect in about six months.
An "anti-stalkerazzi" law went into effect in California two years ago that increased penalties against photographers who impeded celebrities or were responsible for car accidents. Photographers are liable for three times the damages they inflict, plus lose any payments their published photos might earn.