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Actress Sienna Miller tells inquiry of media abuse

The Associated Press, Thursday, November 24, 2011, 4:32am (PST)

LONDON (AP) -- Actress Sienna Miller told a media ethics inquiry Thursday that she was left paranoid and scared by years of relentless tabloid pursuit that ranged from paparazzi outside her house to the hacking of her mobile phone.

Miller said the surveillance, and a stream of personal stories about her in the tabloids, led her to accuse friends and family of leaking information to the media. In fact, her cell phone voice mails had been hacked at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid.

Miller, 29, became a tabloid staple when she dated fellow actor Jude Law. She said the constant scrutiny left her feeling "very violated and very paranoid and anxious, constantly."

"I felt like I was living in some sort of video game," she said.

She called the paparazzi focus on her terrifying.

"For a number of years I was relentlessly pursued by 10 to 15 men, almost daily," she said. "Spat at, verbally abused.

"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."

Miller, the star of "Layer Cake" and "Alfie," was one of the first celebrities to take the News of the World to court over illegal eavesdropping. In May, the newspaper agreed to pay her 100,000 pounds ($160,000) to settle claims her phone had been hacked.

The newspaper's parent company now faces dozens of lawsuits from alleged hacking victims.

Miller, who looked confident as she gave evidence at London's Royal Courts of Justice, said challenging Murdoch's media conglomerate had been a difficult decision.

"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."

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry amid a still-unfolding scandal over illegal eavesdropping by the Murdoch-owned tabloid. Murdoch closed down the News of the World in July after evidence emerged that it had illegally accessed the mobile phone voice mails of celebrities, politicians and even crime victims in its search of scoops.

More than a dozen News of the World journalists and editors have been arrested over allegations of illegal eavesdropping, and the scandal has also claimed the jobs of two top London police officers, Cameron's media adviser and several senior Murdoch executives.

The inquiry, led by Judge Brian Leveson, plans to issue a report next year and could recommend major changes to media regulation in Britain.

Miller took the stand after another witness was allowed to give evidence in private. The courtroom was cleared of press and members of the public as the witness, identified only as HJK, testified about suffering intrusions while in a relationship with a well-known figure, whose identity was also kept secret.

"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling is due to give evidence later Thursday about the media intrusion on her life. The tribunal will also hear from former Formula One boss Max Mosley, who has campaigned for a privacy law since his interest in sadomasochistic sex was exposed in the tabloid.

High-profile witnesses still to come include CNN celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan, who has denied using phone hacking while he was editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper.

The hearings have heard allegations of media malpractice and intrusion that extend far beyond the News of the World.

Witnesses have included celebrities like actor Hugh Grant and ordinary people pursued in times of grief, including the parents of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler, whose voice mails were accessed by the News of the World after she disappeared in 2002.

Her parents said the hacking gave them false hope their daughter was still alive during the investigation into her disappearance.

On Wednesday, the parents of missing child Madeleine McCann said they were left distraught by false stories and the publication of private information by the tabloid press.

Kate and Gerry McCann told the inquiry they felt powerless in the face of stories, based on concocted evidence, suggesting they had killed their daughter. Madeleine had vanished when she was three during the British family's 2007 vacation in Portugal.

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Leveson Inquiry: http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/

Jill Lawless can be reached at: http://twitter.com/JillLawless

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