On Thursday, the 60-year-old actor said the same thing in an open letter
to the British Daily Mail and other media, where they asked them not to publish pictures of his children. Clooney argued
that because his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, fights terrorist groups, publishing pictures of their twins would endanger their children’s lives.
The media should, of course, respect Clooney’s request – but they should also refrain from publishing pictures of children of anyone in public without permission. Clooney is right in that the nature of his wife’s work increases the need for privacy to protect their twins. But even if that was not the case, it is unscrupulous for paparazzi to target children of a celebrity.
Having to dodge adult attempts to pick them up while in a public playground, in school
or on a walk
deprives a child of his or her childhood. It prevents them from enjoying the carefree moments that should be everyone’s birthright. Every child should have the chance to go through their awkward youth phase, miss an easy shot at basketball practice and experiment with fadish clothing, without every single movement being recorded for posterity.
This constant surveillance also deprives them of the anonymity to explore the world and make new friends without people knowing the identity of their parents. A child who gets a new buddy for football practice between camera flashes can never know if the person is genuine or just wants access to a famous family.
What’s more, part of the process of growing up involves making mistakes and exploring different identities. A child who cannot go out into the world without being known as George Clooney’s daughter or son does not have this chance – a denial of anonymity that the child has never signed up for.
Being targeted by photographers also endangers a person’s safety. Think about how Princess Diana died
in a car accident when her driver fled from the paparazzi, or the tabloid photos of Britney Spears driving with her son strapped up in her lap. Spear said later
she tried to dodge photographers and explained, “I instinctively took steps to get my baby and me out of danger, but the paparazzi continued to pursue us.” No child should ever be threatened in this way.
And a child who has those kinds of experiences is probably afraid to go out into the world; paparazzi swarms are disorienting even for adults
. The pandemic has shown us all first hand how terrible it is for mental health
of children not being able to leave their homes. No child should be brought to live a life in a cage like this in a post-pandemic world – no matter how luxurious their home may be.
In his letter, Clooney argued that he never even publishes pictures of his children, but that is also irrelevant. Parents should have the right to share a holiday photo with fans without giving paparazzi permission to pursue their children on their way to school.
Clooney specifically mentioned the Daily Mail because the tabloid had published
photos of actor Billie Lourd’s 1-year-old child who later removed them. In future, the Daily Mail and all other media and websites should adopt a strict policy against publishing pictures of children of people in public, unless they have been specifically permitted to do so by the child’s parents or the child’s parents have chosen to take them to an event, well knowing in advance that media will be present (such as a movie premiere).
Photographers should also be encouraged to stop this practice. Media should refuse to hire photographers who take pictures of children of celebrities without permission. And when readers see such images in the media, we should express our indignation. The ugly truth is that if the public did not create demand for these images, practice would stop.
It’s time to turn the public spotlight on the children of celebrities and on the publishers, photographers and consumers who trade in these images. Every child should have the right to move through the world without fear of being chased by adults. Children of people in public should be treated as the vulnerable people they are – not as characters for public consumption.