More newspapers pledge royal privacy

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The Independent Online
A new era in relations between newspapers and the Royal Family seemed likely yesterday, following Earl Spencer's stinging attack on the press in his eulogy at Saturday's funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Sun, the Mirror, the Daily Star, the Daily Mail and local newspapers joined The Independent yesterday in making commitments not to publish intrusive or paparazzi pictures of the princes William and Harry. The Express will make the same pledge today.

Andrew Marr, editor of The Independent, said the newspaper would never publish photographs of the princes in private situations and would limit occasions when it used photo-opportunities created by Buckingham Palace.

Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard, promised never to use any paparazzi shots unless authorised by its proprietor, Lord Rothermere.

However, Lord Rothermere admitted on the BBC yesterday: "If my fellow proprietors don't agree with me, I don't know how long I can keep up that instruction."

The Express makes the same promise today in a leading article. It says it would only use pictures of the princes authorised by Buckingham Palace and will stop using "snatched" photographs of celebrities.

The best-selling tabloids, the Sun and the Mirror whose circulation war has been blamed by some commentators for the rise of intrusive celebrity journalism, also promised to leave the princes alone.

"The Mirror will now work swiftly with the Press Complaints Commission to protect these boys from intrusive paparazzi photography." the paper's leader said yesterday.

The Sun, for its part, said it had "no intention of carrying photographs which invade the privacy of Princes William and Harry."

The Times has a policy of only using "intrusive" photographs if there is a serious public interest. The Daily Telegraph is known to believe that the tabloids need to rethink their entire approach to the Royals, but that it is unaffected by the paparazzi debate.

The new found respect for the privacy of the Royals will be underlined when the Press Complaints Commission's code committee meets this Thursday to adapt the code governing newspapers' behaviour.

Lord Wakeham, chairman of the PCC, is touring newspaper offices this week to discuss changes before the meeting.

On the agenda are changes in the rules covering the interviewing or photographing of the children of famous people. At present, the rules simply state that children under 16 cannot be interviewed without their parents' permission.

There is also likely to be a strengthening of the commitments newspapers have to make to ensure that any freelance photographers working for them also comply with the PCC code on intrusion and privacy.

In direct relation to the two princes it is expected that the PCC-brokered agreement not to photograph them at school in return for formally posed shots on holiday or at Balmoral will be scrapped to give the boys even more privacy.

For some, however, the promises were not enough. Roger Gale, former Conservative vice-chairman of the National Heritage select committee, said he had offered "one hollow cheer" in response to the undertakings given by some newspapers that they will not publish intrusive pictures of princes William and Harry.

He said: "To date, the press have offered as little as possible in response to public revulsion at press intrusion.

"The press had already agreed - two years ago - not to snatch pictures of Prince William at school and this extra `undertaking' by some newspapers will do little to satisfy those that believe that intrusion into, particularly, private grief and into private life, using modern technology, must be curbed."