J.K. Rowling and Sienna Miller became the latest celebrities to describe severe violations of privacy at the hands of unscrupulous British journalists, when they testifed before a public inquiry into press ethics Thursday.
The inquiry, led by Lord Justice Leveson, was established in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal to investigate British newspaper standards.
On Wednesday, the panel heard that constant press attention forced J.K. Rowling to leave one house and remain besieged in another, as paparazzi photographers camped outside.
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In one incident described by the BBC, Rowling said journalists had targeted her daughter at school:
She said that when her daughter was in her first year at primary school, she unzipped her schoolbag one evening and "[...] I found a letter addressed to me and the letter was from a journalist".
She added: "I felt such a sense of invasion that my daughter's bag... it's very difficult to say how angry I felt that my five-year-old daughter's school was no longer a place of complete security from journalists."
Journalists also called her and her then boyfriend pretending to be from the mail and tax authorities in a bid to dupe them into giving out personal information, Rowling said.
Another of Murdoch's newspapers, The Sun, in 2007 obtained a copy of the unpublished manuscript of the final book in Rowling's Harry Potter series, which it claimed had been found in a field, the Guardian reported. Rowling said this explanation was "hard to believe" and accused the newpaper of leaking her work and seeking to manipulate her.
Earlier, Sienna Miller told the inquiry that years of press intrusion had left her "scared, paranoid and anxious."
The actress said she had been followed daily by 10 to 15 male photographers, who would chase, verbally abuse and even spit on her to get a shot, ABC News reported.
Miller was a victim of phone hacking by reporters working for Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid. She took the paper to court and received a $160,000-settlement in May.
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In her testimony, the Huffington Post said, she claimed she had accused friends and family of selling personal information to the press, unable to understand where else the stories had come from.
Rowling did not believe her phone was hacked, she stated during her testimony.
Earlier this week, James Murdoch resigned from the boards of the companies that publish its British newspapers. He denies knowing the full extent of phone hacking at his company's titles.
The Leveson inquiry will assess whether the British press should be allowed to continue regulating itself or whether an external regulator is necessary, the BBC said.
Yet some fear the backlash against unscrupulous journalism will prompt the government to introduce excessively tough new privacy laws that would stifle creative freedom, said the Bookseller.
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