Actress Halle Berry testified before California lawmakers Tuesday to support a proposed law that would limit the ability of paparazzi to photograph the children of public figures, and she detailed her own daughter’s experiences with aggressive photographers.
“My daughter doesn’t want to go to school because she knows ‘the men’ are watching for her,” the “Monster’s Ball” actress told the Assembly Committee on Public Safety at the California state Capitol in Sacramento. “They jump out of the bushes and from behind cars and who knows where else, besieging these children just to get a photo.”
She added: “I have to yell ‘She’s a child. Leave my child alone. Leave my child alone.’ We get into the car, and my daughter is now sobbing, and she says to me, ‘Are they going to kill us? Are they going to kill us?’”
Berry has had several public clashes with paparazzi, including one incident where she berated photographers who were waiting at her young daughter’s school.
Berry, who is expecting a child with boyfriend Olivier Martinez, said she was speaking in favor of the anti-harassment bill by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, as a “mother of a daughter and the baby boy in my belly.”
She said she understood and respected the media’s rights.
“We have a love-hate relationship. I need them. They need me. But this bill would not infringe on their rights,” she said, adding that the bill, if passed, would change her life and the lives of her children.
Berry filed a criminal complaint in 2008 against a photo agency that, she claimed, was circulating pictures of her and her daughter, Nahla, pictured in their backyard.
The former Bond girl has tried unsuccessfully to move with her daughter to France, citing her fears of a stalker and her concerns for her daughter’s safety and privacy, but Nahla’s father, model Gabriel Aubry, strongly objected to the move.
Paparazzi in France are considered more respectful than their U.S.-based counterparts, and images of celebrity children are blurred to protect their privacy.
Other celebrities, including Angelina Jolie and Ben Affleck, have criticized the paparazzi’s practices, and rock star Steven Tyler even lobbied lawmakers for tougher paparazzi regulations in Hawaii. That effort ultimately failed.
ABC News’ Nick Watt spoke Ricardo Mendoza, a Los Angeles-based paparazzo, earlier this year and asked Mendoza if he would have waited outside Berry’s daughter’s school to take a photo.
At first, Mendoza said he wouldn’t go that route.
“The financial gain that I’m going to get out of that, it’s not worth the hassle of hearing her yell at me,” he replied.
But he had a different response when Watt asked him what he would do if the shot of Berry and her daughter could be sold for $100,000.
“I’ll take the shot in a heartbeat. I’ll take two shots,” Mendoza replied.
De Leon’s bill would change the definition of harassment to include photographing or recording a child without the permission of a legal guardian by following the child or guardian’s activities or by lying in wait.
The bill also calls for $10,000 fines and would allow civil law suits to be filed if paparazzi harass children to grab a shot purely because of who their parents are. Anyone convicted of a first offense could spend between 10 days and a year in jail.
The goal is also to protect the children of public officials, including judges and law enforcement, said Greg Hayes, spokesman for the senator.
Journalism advocates fear the bill will interfere with reporters and photographers gathering news. In an age when everyone with a cellphone has a camera, some say it also potentially puts private citizens at risk of prosecution.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.