“I thought it was a bit weird. I
thought he might be a paedophile. He was going up close to where the
children were playing and seemed to be taking photos of them. I was
thinking of calling the police.”

So says Pia Cunningham, a
property officer at the Combined Real Estate office in Campbelltown,
Sydney. She is talking about the 19th January this year, when she
noticed a man with a camera ducking behind cars and hiding in bushes
near the Hungry Jacks playground opposite her office.

We now know that the man was not a paedophile at all but Ross Schultz, a photographer from the Daily Telegraph.
He was targeting Mark Latham, who was at the Hungry Jack’s restaurant
with his sons. Latham is facing charges of assault, malicious damage
and theft over what happened on that day, and is due to appear in court
on 22 March.

Cunningham says that she first noticed the
photographer “ducking behind” cars outside her office at about noon.
She went out to lunch, and noticed that he was still there, hiding in
bushes near the playground, when she returned.

At about 1.20pm
she saw Mark Latham storm out of the restaurant with his hands in the
air and grab the camera from Schultz. She saw Latham and Schultz
exchange words, and saw Latham throw a couple of punches which failed
to connect before he put the camera in his car and sped off.

Cunningham
then saw Schultz talking to another witness. She says she heard Schultz
say words to the effect of “I asked him if I could get a photo of him
coming at me to show everyone what a bastard he is.”

Cunningham
says she is willing to give evidence in court, but has not yet been
contacted by either side. She does not know Latham, other than through
the media.

She has firm opinions on what she saw. “I say good on
Mark Latham. I would have done exactly the same thing if someone had
been taking pictures of my kids.”

We put Cunningham’s version of events to Latham, who confirmed them. He said:

If I was out on my own and he was taking photos I wouldn’t
have given two hoots. This was an issue concerning the privacy and
protection of my children (who are not ‘fair game’) – something on
which no parent should ever compromise. I had no proof of who this guy
was and when I asked him he couldn’t tell me why he was there. Who
knows what he does with all his photos, if he sells them on to other
people. Several of the photos identify the school my oldest son attends
(he was wearing part of its uniform). Isn’t that against the child
protection rules?

The media themselves are always writing up
the threat to children in today’s society. And what, when I was
confronted by it, I was supposed to do nothing? Not on my watch, I’m
afraid.

Crikey contacted Daily Telegraph
editor David Penberthy’s office, but was told that neither he nor
Schultz would comment on Cunningham’s claims, since the matter is
before the courts.

So why was Schultz pursuing Latham? The Tele
claims Latham is fair game. But there are limits, and News Limited’s
own Code of Conduct gives some indication of where they should be.
Among other things, it states:

“Do not harass or try to intimidate people when seeking information or
photographs” and under the heading “Privacy” states that “Journalists
have no general right to report the private behaviour of public figures
unless wider issues are involved.”

“Public interest is defined…as involving a matter capable of
affecting the people at large so they might be legitimately interested
in, or concerned about, what is going on; or what may happen to them or
to others.”

Peter Fray

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