On January 1, a paparazzi freelance photographer was hit by a car and killed while trying to grab pictures of Justin Bieber’s Ferrari, which had been pulled over by police. Bieber himself was not at the scene—apparently a friend was driving the car.
The yet-unnamed photographer had gotten out of his own car and crossed a busy highway to snap photographs of the car. CNN reports that the police on the scene had asked him twice to leave the scene before he finally turned back, at which point he was struck by an SUV.
Bieber himself has responded publicly to the tragedy, expressing condolences to the family of the victim and calling for action: “While I was not present nor directly involved with this tragic accident, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim. Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent public bystanders, and the photographers themselves.”
Justin Bieber is perhaps more qualified than most to speak on the issue of paparazzi and endangerment. Last summer he was ticketed for reckless driving while trying to get away from paparazzi who were chasing him in their vehicles, and was shortly afterward charged in an alleged physical altercation with a photographer—charges which were later dropped. Safety has been a matter of concern for everyone involved as paparazzi have developed an unsavory reputation for putting themselves and others at risk to snap potentially high-dollar photos. It has been largely believed that a paparazzi chase was a factor in the accident that took the life of Princess Diana in 1997.
Bieber isn’t the only one calling for a closer look at anti-paparazzi legislation. Miley Cyrus took to Twitter after the accident to chastise the paparazzi in general. “Hope this paparazzi/JB accident brings on some changes in ’13 Paparazzi are dangerous! Wasn’t Princess Di enough of a wake up call?!” she said in one Tweet. In another, she said, “The chaos that comes with the paparazzi acting like fools makes it impossible for anyone to make safe choices.” Indeed, the overall attitude around Hollywood seems to be that an accident like this was only a matter of time. However, while there has been ongoing concern for the safety of the celebrities involved, this incident shines a light on the fact that the photographers themselves can be at risk.
Anti-paparazzi legislation is on the books, but the general complaint is that the laws aren’t specific enough. The paparazzo involved in the earlier Bieber reckless driving incident were charged under a state law passed in 2010, but a judge dismissed the charges reportedly claiming the law flirted with first amendment rights.