May 31, 2006

Celebrity colonialism

Brangelina got to decide who could enter and leave Namibia during their stay there.
We’ve heard of stars like Michael Jackson and the late Princess Diana demanding that London stores such as Hamley’s and Harrod’s close their doors to the public so that they can browse toys and jewellery without having to breathe in the fumes of the shopping masses. But celebs effectively shutting down national borders so that they can give birth in peace? As the Washington Post said, ‘Surely Hollywood stars can’t dictate who enters and leaves a sovereign state’ (7). The Philadelphia Daily News wondered if, instead of posting thousands of National Guard troops along the US-Mexico border, as President George W Bush recently suggested, ‘we should just make illegal immigrants seek permission from Brad and Angelina’ (8).

Brangelina’s security posse, in cahoots with the Namibian government and police, created what it called a ‘paparazzi-free zone’ around the Burning Shore resort. Some journalists have complained of harassment, including of the physical variety. It is reported that, in the run-up to the birth, some foreign photographers were warned to leave Namibia or face arrest. Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) complained that ‘freedom of expression was being compromised’. The NSHR condemned the ‘heavy-handed and brutal tactics selectively directed against local and certain foreign journalists’ as the ‘security personnel of Pitt and Jolie and Namibia police members conducted unwarranted door-to-door searches of the homes of local residents for paparazzi and other media workers’ - actions which are only constitutionally ‘allowed on the grounds of inter alia national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country’ (9).

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

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