Was Mark Latham being stalked and harassed when
he had his clash with Daily Telegraph
photographer Ross Schultz, as he claims? Or did he over-react to understandable
and justifiable media interest? A discrepancy in the Daily Telegraph’s version of events may lend some credence to the
harassment claim.

Mark
Latham writes:

My
side of the story is very simple: like most parents, I’m not going
to put up with photographers staking out my home, following me and my
children around the streets of Campbelltown and then hiding in the bushes
outside a playground for an hour taking photos of my family. Half a dozen
of the photos were of my back (they would never be used by a newspaper) but
captured my sons looking at the camera. If Freddie down the street
was shown the photos he would say, ‘that’s a photo of a little boy’s face and
some bloke’s back.’ It was an outrageous invasion of my sons’ privacy by
someone whom, when I asked him what he was doing there, couldn’t tell me.

Moreover, I’m
not going to have this happening when I am more than a year out of
politics. This was not the anniversary of my resignation from parliament,
that had already passed. This was any other day in our life. I
am not a public official of any kind and nor do I seek to provide a running
commentary on public events. I am a home dad. I don’t get up in the
morning and make speeches or pronouncements, I make my sons breakfast and get
them ready for the day ahead. I take my responsibilities very
seriously and will never ignore my family’s rights and protection.

For
12 months I repeatedly asked the media to respect our rights and
privacy. I also asked the Campbelltown police to protect our rights
under the law, all
to no avail. The old sweetheart deal between the media and the coppers
in
the country still applies.

The
Daily Telegraph
has claimed here
and here
that the stoush took place during preparations for an article to mark the first
anniversary of Mr Latham’s exit from politics.

But that can’t be right. The incident
happened on the 19th January, but the anniversary of Latham’s resignation was
the day before – the 18th. How could the Tele’s pursuit of Latham
have been preparation for an anniversary story if the significant date had come
and gone?

Was there some other agenda that took
Schultz out there that day? Surely the Tele didn’t simply get the date wrong. Or
was the Tele following Latham and his kids in the hope of provoking a reaction?

The Tele has denied it
was taking pictures of Latham’s children. Crikey left a message with the Daily Telegraph newsdesk asking for
comment yesterday, but they hadn’t got back to us in time for our deadline.

Latham has now been charged with assault
and malicious damage, so the rights and wrongs will be dealt with in court. The boundaries between public and private
life are never easy to draw, but in this case Latham might not be the only one
to have some explaining to do.

Peter Fray

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