Prince Harry and Meghan aren’t blindly attacking the media – they have a right to protect their privacy

It is impressive to see the Duke and Duchess of Sussex challenging intrusive coverage on their own terms, and taking the necessary lessons from the tragedy of Diana

Sean O'Grady
Wednesday 02 October 2019 11:12 BST
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce legal action over private letter in statement referencing Diana

Is Meghan Markle running for parliament? Is she going to be placed in charge of the BBC? Are the board of Tesco thinking about making her their new CEO?

No. Even if any of these outlandish propositions (no disrespect) were to be true, there would still be no public interest or other justification for a newspaper publishing private correspondence with her father. Still less would there be any justification for the stomach-churning campaign of personal vilification that has been launched against her, ever since Prince Harry had the temerity to marry someone he fancied and fell in love with.

Meghan is a minor member of the royal family who spends her time doing what they can most usefully do – going on diplomatic missions, attending flummery ceremonials and doing charity work. It doesn’t matter in any of these “jobs” whether her dad hates her guts or whatever, and it’s no one’s business but her family’s. There is no threat to the economy, to national security or the future of the monarchy. As it happens, I’ve not read the letters and have no interest in doing so. The content is immaterial.

So I am more than pleased that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have decided to take some action against the never-ending, unjustified and cruel intrusions into their lives. They have done so cleverly. The right to privacy is legally debatable set against other human rights about free speech and the right to know; but the breach of copyright is unarguable. It is a relatively minor offence and there wouldn’t be much cash compo, but that’s not the point. The point is that they will win the case. Schillings is an excellent firm of solicitors.

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Let us be clear. Newspapers publish this stuff, like the paparazzi Images of Princess Diana that helped lead to her death, because the public will pay good money to buy the papers and mags that feature them, and will click on the sidebars of shame that feature them. There is a public demand, and interest, which is not to be confused with the public interest, of course. It isn’t because the media itself is running a campaign as such, but merely responding to its audience’s demands. Thus the only restraint in such a situation is the law and it has to be used. Harry is right to be worried and right to take action.

It is also impossible to deny the out and out racism that you see in the comments sections online, and on social media about Meghan. It is vile, poorly-policed and some of it must be illegal. It adds a new and dangerous dimension to the usual take-downs of celebs and is obviously an intensification of the kind of persecution that Diana suffered, which did not have that race hate dimension.

It is then essential that Meghan and Harry win the “political” and social arguments surrounding her treatment as much as the legal case. They go together, in fact, and it is impressive to see Harry and Meghan taking the media on, on their own terms, and taking the necessary lessons from the tragedy of Diana. As I say, I am not much concerned with their lives, but dislike watching persecution by the press. I hope they win, because if they do not, I fear much worse will befall them.

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