The Mail on Sunday lawsuit will outline a line in the sand between the royals and the media
Battlelines have been drawn between one of the most searched-for pairs on the internet and Britain’s media: #TeamMeghan versus free speech fighters of the press. Prince Harry has filed legal proceedings against Britain’s two biggest tabloid newspaper groups for telephone hacking and concealing, while his wife has sued the Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter.
This all-out assault on the powerful tabloid press by a member of the royal family has been a long time coming- nine months since the Duchess of Sussex’s letter to her father was published in the paper, and 22 times since her husband’s mother been killed in a auto disintegrate, pursued by paparazzi.
It is set to be a landmark law challenge , not because it violates new ground in privacy examples, but for the line it seeks to draw in the sand between the modern empire and the media. It will probably be nasty, uncouth and, with the telephone hacking example not coming to trial for a year at least , not specially short. Wherever your compassions lie, there are also unlikely to be any winners.
Part of the problem is that proper debate on a case-by-case basis no longer seems possible. For every social media post pointing to the sexism and racism underpinning much of the analysi of Meghan, there’s another attacking the couple. Not precisely posts, but the entire figurehead deal of the Spectator’s first US edition, in which Rod Liddle exhorts America to” take Meghan back “.
Meanwhile, imperial tales with a proper public interest- such as Prince Andrew’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein- are pushed off the report agenda.
Harry has made clear via a statement on an internet site apparently put in for the purpose of bypassing the media that he is fighting historic sins that still persist, despite the millions “ve lost” readers and revenues since his mother died.” In today’s digital age, press fabrications are repurposed as truth in all regions of the world. One day’s coverage is no longer tomorrow’s chip paper .”
No one likes to prejudge a suit- especially a writer- but Meghan’s assertion of misappropriation of private information, violation of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act is likely to prove difficult for Associated Newspapers– publisher of the Mail papers and MailOnline- to triumph. Respect for family life is at the heart of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Its first wire speaks,” Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his mail .” A handwritten observe to your estranged father seems to tick “private”, ” kinfolk” and “correspondence” all at once.
Mail lawyers are likely to argue that, as the letter was first pointed out in a People magazine article sympathetic to Meghan, her father had the right to reply. This would surely have justified an interview, but not so many extracts and discussions among her letter.
On the issue of copyright, which everyone abides Meghan owns, there is no public interest defence at all. The Mail on Sunday should know this better than most as it lost the last time a imperial sued for the publication of private characters- in such cases, Prince Charles’s ” diaries” from an official trip in 2005. However, the newspaper group said it” stands by the story it published and will be protecting this case energetically “.
On the wider hacking and privacy lawsuit, there has been little official comment. Lawyer for both the News and Mirror group newspapers are trawling the jumble of cases since 2009 to prove alleged email omission does not constitute the industrial magnitude cover-up alleged.
Whatever the verdict, the huge cost of fighting these cases could still end with a prevail of kinds for the press. If they go to trial, the Sussexes could be the first royals to appear in court in person in more than a century. Imagine the coverage.
This comes as the empire is increasingly mired in a constitutional crisis over Brexit, and the media’s role in impounding the potent to account is itself being increasingly questioned. Mark Stephens, the media lawyer, heard two distinct portions to Meghan’s Mail on Sunday complaint.” They[ the Sussexes] have picked a battle they are going to win. But the press release also picks a crusade which is foolhardy, hurried and ill-advised .” Not just for the Sussexes, but for society as a whole.
This is where cooler thoughts should prevail. Everybody, of members of the royal family, deserves a private life and the chance to define that privacy. But it is possible to be “Team Meghan” and still think it acceptable to question the cost to taxpayers of royals refurbishing their dwelling, or taking four private planes in 11 periods. This is not the press protecting their own, even those who behave badly, but an essential defence of what journalism is- regarding the potent to account. The reality that a mixed-race woman has come in for behavior more than her carnival share of such questioning is revolting when set against the lack of coverage of other imperial stories, but that doesn’t stop at least some of the questions being legitimate.
So much has changed since pictures of Diana in her gym kit were taken privately and published in the Mirror. She sued and intention up adjudicating out of court. Yet so much has also stayed the same. Some privacy activists argue that the current state of the relationship between the young royals and the media is a sign of the press freshly flexing its muscles after years in a post-Leveson straitjacket.
One or two questionable narrations do not disguise the fact that press behaviour has changed, albeit too little for some. Saying otherwise perils turning any tale about the press into the sort of social media rant from which most of the industry likes to distance itself. It’s hard not to agree with Harry’s statement:” Media freedom and objective, candid reporting is a cornerstone of democracy and in the current state of the world we have never needed responsible media more .”
Johnson kinfolk values
My mind started to wander during Boris Johnson’s speech at Tory party conference last week, as I dread did his. But it “ve given me” a bright impression- not how to get us out of the current quagmire, sadly, but a new prove for the screenwriter Jesse Armstrong.
When Johnson disclosed the” virtuoso up his sleeve”- that his mother, the daughter of a former president of the European Commission of Human Rights had voted for Brexit- it appears to be a perfect follow-up to Armstrong’s brilliant Tv depict Succession, about a crazily dysfunctional media family with so many similarities to the real-life Murdochs. Just imagine: the warring, photogenic children, the aesthetic mother with a secret and the colorful father-god. I even thought of a figure: Blond Ambition. Come on, it’s better than thinking about Brexit.