• The Publisher’s Notebook •
Malibu’s De Facto Paparazzi Doings
BY ANNE SOBLE
I am already on record as opposing any municipal legislation to put curbs on paparazzi, or any other members of the media, credentialed or otherwise, even ones who behave in ways I may personally abhor because I will accept no abridgement of the right of free speech that does not jeopardize public safety. I stand with Thomas Jefferson that if I have to choose between government and a free press, I will opt for the free press. Sadly, there are too many times when I think this would have been particularly applicable in Malibu public policymaking.
I feel compelled to return to the city’s exploration of a draft ordinance to curb inappropriate paparazzi behavior in light of the exchanges between a local freelance journalist and the mayor and city attorney that continued long after the rest of the pages of this week’s issue of The News had been put to press. The City of Malibu has shot itself in the foot on policy issues as disparate as the poorly crafted Measure M and what may become the equally disastrous Legacy Park boondoggle. Its de facto paparazzi panel may be another.
If a local government ever needed transparency to save it from itself, the City of Malibu may be it. If the city wants to stop photographers from driving unsafely, blocking public walkways, or harassing children near schools, the laws are already on the books. The state Paparazzi Act, traffic and trespass laws, and child endangerment measures are there for the enforcement. The city should put the legal system to work and leave the First Amendment alone.
I have been equally forthright in my concern that the man who turned the Clinton family foibles into a national pastime, nurturing the worst of prurient celebrity fascination, and turned an Alaskan teenager’s harmless prank banner of “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” into a repressive curb on young voices is not the person to steer Malibu’s public policy on the media.
If free speech and communication cannot flourish unfettered, even if immature or tasteless by traditional norms, at our institutions of learning, how can we develop a citizenry unafraid to speak up when the emperor has no clothes, starts a war without cause, or cripples an economy on behalf of the favored few? My fear is a Starr Chamber would extend those Alaskan free speech curbs to press and non-press alike.
Malibu does not need non-committees of unnamed experts selected by unknown criteria. Governmental secrecy is the watchword of those who would dictate to others in their own self-interest.