Guest post: Hannah Weller - 'Media intrusion can affect any family - and children must be protected'
Having experienced her own children being targeted by the paparazzi, Hannah Weller - campaigner and wife of Paul Weller - says it should be an offence for the media to identify children without their parents' consent. Here, she argues that all children deserve the right to grow up in private - whoever their parents are.
Founder of Protect: The Campaign for Children's Privacy
Posted on: Thu 07-Aug-14 13:21:36
(5 comments )
When our twin boys were 10 months old, my husband Paul and I took them on holiday to LA to visit their sister Dylan, who was 16 at the time. One afternoon Paul took the kids out shopping whilst I caught up on some much-needed sleep.
This was not part of a promotional tour, they weren't at some premiere or event – Paul was just an ordinary Dad spending some time with his kids. And yet, they were followed around all afternoon by a stranger with a camera. Paul had asked him to stop snapping, but the man became aggressive and offered to fight him in front of the kids. When they thought he had gone, Paul went into a café to get some drinks, but the man returned and started snapping Dylan and the boys from just a few feet away. And there he was again later, hiding behind a tree with a long lens.
A few days later someone sent me a link to a Mail Online article. Sure enough, there were the photos: shots of my family's outing, mostly taken covertly. It was apparent that they had been followed all afternoon without their knowledge.
Dylan was obviously shaken up, intimidated, and afraid. As a teenage girl, she is old enough to understand that being followed and photographed by a grown man without her consent is not right – especially considering all the warnings we parents bestow upon our young girls about sexual predators. To have him take photos of her and then proceed to make those images available for all the world to see was a really distressing experience. She was mortified when she saw herself in the international press - and was concerned that absolutely anyone could see her, too. Especially in the current tabloid climate of unscrupulously sexualising teenage girls, it was horrible to know that there were images of our daughter online, for anyone to copy, re-print and keep. The NSPCC confirm that the publishing of even innocuous photos can pose direct and indirect risks to children, stating that: "Photos can be easily copied and adapted, perhaps to create images of child abuse, which can then find their way on to other websites."
This doesn't just affect the children of well-known people - any child could end up in the press. If the tabloids took an interest in you or a member of your family or friends - because you became the victim of a crime, for example - there would be no automatic protection of your child's right to privacy.
It's easy to direct anger towards the men with cameras, but it's the editors who are feeding this demand. They sit behind their comfy desk, knowing their own children are safe, whilst publishing photos of other people’s kids for the world to see, without their consent. Although my husband may be well known, my children are not - and their privacy has been violated.
Another mum recently found herself in a similar situation. The singer Adele has fought, like me, to protect her child's privacy and right to grow up away from media intrusion. It baffles me that there should be a fight. But then, I also struggle to understand why any adult can think it's acceptable to follow children around and take photos of them for profit. When we do see Adele carrying her son, often entirely covered in a blanket and with a protective hand over his head, it's clear that she is trying to shield him from such people. The fearful look on her face reminds me of a cornered Lioness, trying desperately to protect her cub from a pack of hyenas.
It's a disgrace that this kind of aggressive and threatening behaviour is accepted, and that there is no law in place in the UK to help mothers protect their children. I don't want any editor to make decisions regarding any child's safety and privacy. That's why we took Mail Online to court and won our battle to protect our children from tabloid exposure. Recently, lawyers for Adele's two-year-old son have accepted damages to settle a privacy case over paparazzi photos of him.
These are great steps in protecting children's privacy, but in reality, the result of our case only protects Dylan and the twins from this one publisher. And what about parents who cannot afford hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs? This doesn't just affect the children of well-known people - any child could end up in the press. If the tabloids took an interest in you or a member of your family or friends - because you became the victim of a crime, for example - your child's identity could be exposed in the same way. There would be no automatic protection of your child's right to privacy.
In every other area of our children's lives, it is the parent’s right and responsibility to make decisions about their children's safety and welfare. We decide whether or not to put their photos on Facebook, we sign consent forms for the school or sports club to use their images. We call the police if we feel our children's safety is being compromised and we are supported by law. But when it comes to harassing toddlers or teenage girls, and exposing their identity in the global tabloids, the editors are the ones entrusted with this important decision.
And this is why I have launched a campaign for a change in legislation – so that all children can be protected. I want it to be a criminal offence for the media to publish images of children's faces without parental consent, where it is not in the (valid) public interest or of benefit to the child. If you feel, like me, that children should be protected in law from the prying eyes of the press, please sign our petition here.
By Hannah Weller
I sort of agree, but I'm not sure why you are linking it to sexualising teenage girls? Surely that's two separate issues? I agree children should be protected from media intrusion though, thank you to second poster for the link.
Ironically enough though, I had to google you and the first hit was a link to a naked bump selfie you'd put on Twitter. Did make me laugh, sorry
nerf I've seen loads of pictures
on the Daily Mail in various papers of celebrities daughter's and how they are "shaping up" just like their mothers etc. The papers can't wait to sexualise them.
Also The OP posting a naked bump selfie is not the same as a photo of her child either . She is an adult and can choose to do whatever she like with her image.
Yes I know that - I didn't criticise OP, it just made me laugh.
Still think the teenage girl thing is different, and that the intrusion into children's lives applies regardless of age.
i do understand what you trying to say, but can you please stop trying to imply the 16 year is your daughter. Her Mom must feel really upset about it. Speak for your own Kids but I do feel for Paul Wellers other loves and doesn't feel right
...sorry don't mean to offend
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