World

J.K. Rowling tells phone-hack probe of press 'invasion'

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, says she felt a sense of "invasion" when a note from a journalist was slipped into the school bag of her five-year-old daughter.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has campaigned to keep her children out of the media glare, gives evidence about media intrusion during a media ethics inquiry in London on Thursday. (Parliamentary Recording Unit via APTN/Associated Press)

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, says she felt a sense of "invasion" when a note from a journalist was slipped into the school bag of her five-year-old daughter.

Rowling was testifying Thursday in London at a media-ethics inquiry stemming from a phone-hacking scandal.

"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," she said.

She described numerous encounters with the press when her young children were photographed. She also said the press published her address several times.

She testified that one occasion her home was staked out by two journalists from a Scottish tabloid. When Rowling's public relations agent called the paper to find out why the journalists were outside the house, they were told "it was a boring day at the office," Rowling said.

While Rowling feels there is "heroic" journalism being done in Britain, she lamented the work of the tabloids.

"I wonder sometimes why they're given the same name," she said.

Blamed family, friends

Earlier, British actor Sienna Miller testified she mistakenly blamed family and friends when her private information began appearing in the press.

Miller told the inquiry she questioned people she knew in the mistaken belief that one of them had leaked details of her private life to the media, when, in fact, News of the World reporters had hacked her voicemail.

Miller settled for £100,000 ($162,000 Cdn) and costs after she took legal action against the tabloid.

"I was very nervous about taking on an empire that was richer and far more powerful than I will ever be," she said. "It was very daunting."

Miller also testified that she felt hounded by the tabloids.

"I would often find myself, at the age of 21, at midnight, running down a dark street on my own with 10 men chasing me. And the fact they had cameras in their hands made that legal," said Miller, 29.

Miller and former Formula 1 auto-racing boss Max Mosley are among scores of well-known Britons whose cellphone messages were taped illegally by reporters at the News of the World.

Pushing for privacy law

Mosley has lobbied for a privacy law since the now-defunct Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid exposed his interest in sadomasochistic sex.

Mosley sued the News of the World in 2008 and won £60,000 ($97,500 Cdn) after the paper ran a story and photos of him at a sadomasochistic orgy that tabloid falsely claimed was Nazi-themed.

He called the story "outrageous," and said the Nazi references were completely untrue and enormously damaging.

"You work all your life to try and achieve something or do something useful," he said. "And suddenly something like this happens and that's what you're remembered for."

The fourth day of hearings, ordered by the government of David Cameron and chaired by Appeal Court Justice Brian Leveson, began with a witness identified only as HJK, who gave evidence in secret with the public and media barred from the hearing. 

Leveson's seven-member panel includes a veteran newspaper reporter, a former police chief, a civil liberties activist and a broadcast journalist. They are due to issue their report within a year.

The inquiry is probing a scandal that continues to shake Britain's police, political and media establishment.

It already has led to the resignations of London's police chief as well as a second in command, and some senior executives at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Actor Hugh Grant and the parents of murdered teen Milly Dowler testified at the inquiry earlier this week.

British actor Sienna Miller testifies Thursday at the Leveson inquiry, which is looking in the U.K. phone-hacking scandal, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

with files from The Associated Press