Ian Monk: Time to act on the paparazzi

Recently in the UK an ambulance, its patient and crew were violated by a camera-wielding mob inside the grounds of a hospital.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

With the thuggish insensitivity that characterises the operations of certain swathes of paparazzi, the cameramen swarmed around the opening doors of the vehicle to grab flash pictures of the body of a recently deceased patient.

The 20 or so cameramen didn't of course mean any offence. They simply 'got the wrong ambulance', having heard on the unreliable jungle telegraph off which the pack operates that the occupant was a star whose arrival at hospital was expected.

So that would have been fine. Thrusting lenses through opening ambulance doors to grab pictures of a hospitalised star would have been perfectly legitimate?

Not a word of this story has been reported anywhere. Newspapers, for all their embracing of the self-regulation of the Press Complaints Commission, have limited interest in exposing the hand that feeds them.

The vignette is, though, an indictment of the failure of either press regulators or the law to protect individuals from hideous levels of harassment.

Many PR professionals take an ambivalent view of the paparazzi. We wouldn't be without them when organising publicity around an event. And how useful they are for those oh-so-carefully staged 'snatched' pictures of the celebrity whose waning star needs the boost of a saucy poolside shot published in a tabloid.

And yet we rightly curse the hoods with cameras who hound our clients to breaking point and then sell for publication the shot of the 'angry-looking star'.

As a trade the paparazzi are unregulated. Many have no legitimate journalistic credentials or photographic background. They operate without responsibility, abusing the concept of press freedom and adding menace to the lives of many high profile individuals.

It is time for regulators - if not legislators - to act. And some of the first evidence they hear should be an honest view from the PR professionals who see the paps through a distinctive lens.

- Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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