Paparazzi feel the heat in California

Thu Jul 3, 2008 8:18pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For years Hollywood's paparazzi have hounded celebrities, but now -- with help from local politicians, a lawyer in the Monica Lewinsky case, and even Malibu surfers -- they are the ones feeling the heat.

In Los Angeles and the nearby beachside enclave of Malibu, city leaders want to slap restrictions on the paparazzi citing safety concerns. But the paps, along with legal experts, say they are protected by their right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

"The paparazzo is just as much covered by the First Amendment as you or I, or any Joe Schmo up the street," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Virginia-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

"I don't think under any First Amendment law you can single out a paparazzi photographer," she said.

Still, many people are trying.

Numerous Hollywood celebrities, ranging from Mel Gibson to Britney Spears, have homes in posh Malibu and as a result, it has become a magnet for photographers looking for stars.

In late June, several Malibu surfers swarmed some paparazzi who had gathered at a beach to get shots of "Fool's Gold" actor Matthew McConaughey, 38, as he surfed.

A fight ensued, was captured on video and posted online showing the shirtless surfers -- some apparently holding beer bottles -- battling with the photographers.   Continued...

<p>Media crews and the paparazzi rush to the gate as a visitor exits her car at hotel heiress Paris Hilton's home, where she is expected to serve a 45 day home arrest sentence after being released from the Century Regional Detention Center for reported medical conditions, in the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles in this June 7, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas</p>