Harry launches attack on tabloid ‘bullying’

Decision: Meghan is to sue The Mail on Sunday for publishing her handwritten letter to her father. © PA

Does the British tabloid media harm us all? “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces,” says Prince Harry in a devastating attack on the press.

Only The Times is brave enough to carry the story emblazoned across its front page this morning.

(The British newspapers have always looked after their own.)

“Furious Prince hits out at bullying of Meghan,” pronounces the huge black headline over a large photo of the Duchess, black hair blowing in the wind, on tour in Africa.

“Prince Harry launched an unprecedented attack on the tabloid press last night, accusing it of waging a ruthless campaign against his wife that has left him a silent witness to her suffering,” says the first paragraph.

It goes to explain that, in a lengthy and passionate statement, Harry said the “press pack” had “vilified her almost daily for the past nine months” and evoked memories of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

Meghan, he said, was “falling victim to the same powerful forces” and his “deepest fear is history repeating itself”.

He wrote: “I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.”

BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said the statement was “remarkably outspoken” and “nothing less than a stinging attack on the British tabloid media”.

In his statement, Prince Harry said he and Meghan believed in “media freedom and objective, truthful reporting” as a “cornerstone of democracy”.

But he said his wife had become “one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences”.

Prince Harry said: “There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face — as so many of you can relate to — I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been.”

It is not the first time the royals have taken legal action against the press. In 2017, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were awarded £92,000 (100,000 euros) in damages after French magazine Closer printed topless pictures of the duchess in 2012.

Harry has always been fiercely defensive about the media, for very understandable reasons. He was 12 when his mother Princess Diana died aged 36 in 1997, after her car crashed in Paris while being pursued by paparazzi.

Her brother Charles Spencer delivered a blistering eulogy at her funeral. He spoke of how Diana, in the year after her divorce from Prince Charles, had “talked endlessly” of leaving Britain, “mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the newspapers. I don’t think she ever understood why her genuinely good intentions were sneered at by the media, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on their behalf to bring her down. It is baffling.”

Does the British tabloid media harm us all?

Live by the sword, die by the sword?

The popular press is an animal. It likes to make people famous. And it likes to bring them down again. It gives vent to the most vicious instincts of society, the dark forces of the crowd that would, in any civilised society, be taboo. It is utterly poisonous, many believe.

And, yet, it does — in a rough and imperfect way — perform three important functions, say defenders. First, it makes news accessible to ordinary people and, thus, keeps democracy alive. Second, it holds the rich and powerful to account. Third, it performs a kind of social therapy by getting stuff out in the open. Repressed societies are always the most dangerous.

You Decide

  1. Is the tabloid press bad for society?
  2. If the tabloid press is immoral, why is Mail Online the most-read news website in the world?

Activities

  1. Read Prince Harry’s statement, using the Expert Links. Write a short letter to him and Meghan, giving your reaction to what he has said.
  2. “This house would ban the British tabloid press.” Set up a formal debate in your class. Use this story to get you started!

Some People Say...

“Of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest was this — a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.”

Charles Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, the 9th Earl Spencer

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The London law firm Schillings, acting for the Duchess of Sussex, has accused The Mail on Sunday of a campaign of false, derogatory stories. The firm has yesterday filed a High Court claim against the paper and its parent company over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018. The legal proceedings are being funded privately by the couple and any proceeds will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.
What do we not know?
Whether they will win the case. The Mail on Sunday said today that it stood by the story it published and would defend the case in court “vigorously”.

Word Watch

Tabloid press
Traditionally, newspapers with pages that are about 30 cm by 40 cm, with an emphasis on photos and a concise, sensational style of writing. For example, The Mirror, The Sun and The Daily Mail. Today, some of the more serious newspapers, with longer, more in-depth reads, also come in a ‘tabloid’ size for ease.
Vilified
To speak or write about someone in an abusively disparaging manner.
Commoditised
To treat someone like a thing.
Objective
Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
Paparazzi
Freelance photographers who take photographs of celebrities.
Eulogy
A speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, especially a tribute to someone who has just died.
Popular press
Another phrase for tabloid press.

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