Leveson Inquiry

Leveson Inquiry: UK press photographers ask for representation get their views across

By Hamish Mackay

December 5, 2011 | 3 min read

UK press photographers are seeking official input to the Leveson Inquiry on press standards amid their concerns that they are coming under sustained and unjustified criticism from witnesses.

The cudgels have been taken up the British Press Photographers' Association (BPPA) which claims its members are nothing like the "dodgy" photographers that witnesses including the McCanns, Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller talked about. And, if they were, the BPPA wants a role in helping Leveson find a solution.

The Guardian reports that in an effort to bring some "balance" to the discussion, the BPPA seek "core participant" status, which would allow it to be presented by a lawyer at the Leveson inquiry to counter allegations it deems to be unfair or inaccurate.

Neil Turner, vice-chair of the BPPA, which represents more than 800 photographers in the UK, is quoted by The Guardian as commenting: "Over the last few years the term paparazzi has become a pejorative term, but once upon a time in history they were the guys who were on first-name terms with people like Frank Sinatra.

Over the past two weeks Leveson has heard a series of damning testimonies from "victims" of the press complaining about being under siege from paparazzi day and night.

Turner points out much of the testimony involve criminal behaviour and are illegal whether the individual is a photographer or not.

Turner says: "It sounds like stalking, intimidation, assault which seems like activities for which there are perfectly usable statutes.

"If they are camping outside someone's house, clearly there is an issue. That is why we want to contribute and help solve the problem."

However, Turner said the "elephant in the room" was market forces. "If there is no market for the photos, people would not be doing this.”

He said a photograph of Hugh Grant's new baby might fetch a "mid to high five-figure sum" and if money like that is on offer, some people will "body swerve ethics" to get the shots.

Turner said celebrities had a role to play in killing this market. He took the example of Zoe Ball's wedding to Norman Cook. "They didn't sell to Hello! Or OK!. They had a photo call for any photographer who wanted and completely killed any chance of it becoming a paparazzi feast."

Turner said the BPPA would be opposed to any French-style privacy laws and wanted to counter a call by Gerry McCann for new legislation that would require a photographer to seek written consent from the subject if they were in a public place.

"Even if you did that, it wouldn't work, the decisive moment would become the staged moment," he added.

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