Harry Potter author JK Rowling and actress Sienna Miller told harrowing stories today of being harassed by aggressive celebrity reporters, including leaving a note in Rowling's 5-year-old's book bag or being spit at by photographers to get a shot of Miller's reaction.
The women testified before a British inquiry how they felt threatened by tabloid reporters and photographers in their efforts to get scoops.
Rowling said that tabloid media crews camped in front of her home for weeks at a time, waiting for pictures of the author and her children.
"It's hard to explain how it feels to someone who has not experienced it. It's incredibly threatening," she said.
The unrelenting attention makes her feel helpless at times to stop it.
"Clearly I can't put the invisibility cloak over myself or my house nor would I want to....I just want to have some privacy," she said.
At one point the Harry Potter creator said a journalist went so far as to slip a note into her 5-year-old daughter's book bag while she was away at school.
"I felt such a sense of invasion....it's very difficult to say how angry I felt that my 5-year-old daughter's school was not a complete place of security," she said.
Rowling has fought to keep her children out of the public spotlight. She has sued and won several cases to keep photographs of her children from being published.
"We're not looking for special treatment. We're looking for normal treatment," Rowling said.
Prime Minister David Cameron called for the inquiry into media ethics because of the widespread cell phone hacking scandal involving the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Of The World tabloid newspaper. The newspaper has admitted eavesdropping on celebrities, politicians and crime victims in search of scoops.
News of the World shut down earlier this year because of the scandal and Murdoch's son James resigned this week from his seat on the boards of several British newspapers.
Earlier in the day, actress Sienna Miller told the panel that years of being chased, harassed, and spied on by tabloids and paparazzi left her "scared, paranoid and anxious."
Miller was one of the first celebrities to take The News Of The World to court over phone hacking. The newspaper agreed to a $160,000 settlement in May.
Miller, 29, testified that for years she was followed every day by 10 to 15 men, all members of the paparazzi who spat at and verbally abused her to get the reaction and the photo they wanted.
"I would often find myself, at the age of 21, at midnight, running down a dark street on my own with 10 men chasing me. And the fact they had cameras in their hands made that legal. But take away the cameras and what have you got? A pack of men chasing a woman. It was terrifying," she said.
The star became tabloid fodder when she began dating fellow actor Jude Law. Miller said she was baffled to see details of her personal life constantly appearing in The News Of The World. She said reporters would appear out of nowhere, anticipating her every move.
"It felt like I was living in some sort of video game," she said.
In fact, her phone was being hacked by the News Of The World. At the time, the non-stop stories led her to accuse her close family and friends of selling information to the tabloids.
"The effect it had on my life was really damaging to me and my family," Miller said.
Earlier this week actor Hugh Grant accused British tabloids today of hacking into his voicemail in 2007 for a story about his love life, buying his private medical records and burglarizing his apartment in an intrusive search for scoops.
And when British toddler Madeleine McCann disappeared in Portugal in 2007, her parents Kate and Gerry McCann told the panel earlier this week that the media was helpful at first, but eventually turned "sinister."
They said two papers ran nearly a hundred stories claiming the McCann's killed their daughter and hid her body in a freezer and sold their daughter into slavery to cover personal debts. The McCanns sued, and won.
One of the papers involved printed a front page apology admitting the stories were fabricated. The McCanns said the damage is long-lasting. On a recent trip to Holland, Gerry McCann said they were recognized.
"A taxi driver said oh, you're the parents who killed their daughter. What happened?"