Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s letter to newspaper editors saying they will ‘no longer engage’ with the UK’s most popular titles has today been blasted as censorship by the Society of Editors. The couple said they will not speak to the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Sun or Daily Express.
The Queen’s former press spokesmen Dickie Arbiter said the couple were ‘wrong’ and Prince Charles’s biographer Tom Bower said they ‘have become their own worst enemies’.
Earlier Piers Morgan and the BBC’s Andrew Neil were among the host of commentators to lay into the pair’s new policy.
The LA-based Sussexes released the letter to four newspaper groups last night detailing how their self-imposed ban is a refusal to ‘offer themselves up’. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have said they will no longer respond to enquiries from journalists at British tabloids.
It came hours after Prince Harry caused outrage by suggesting the coronavirus crisis sweeping Britain was ‘better than we are led to believe through certain corners of the media’. Their letter was widely criticised by royal and media commentators, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Society of Editors Executive Director Ian Murray said ‘Although the couple may no longer style themselves as working royals, they continue to be high-profile public figures and indeed have made plain their intention to continue to do so. By appearing to dictate which media they will work with and which they will ignore they, no doubt unintentionally, give succour to the rich and powerful everywhere to use their example as an excuse to attack the media when it suits them.
Harry, 35, and 38-year-old Meghan’s letter was sent to the editors of the news groups involved last night.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s letter to Britain’s Tabloids
Sent to editors of British newspapers including The Daily Mail, Mirror, The Sun or Express:
‘As the Duke and Duchess of Sussex now settle into the next chapter of their lives and no longer receive any publicly funded support, we are writing to set a new media relations policy, specifically as it pertains to your organisation.
Like you, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex believe that a free press is a cornerstone to any democracy – particularly in moments of crisis. At its best, this free press shines light on dark places, telling stories that would otherwise go untold, standing up for what’s right, challenging power, and holding those who abuse the system to account.
It has been said that journalism’s first obligation is to the truth. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex agree wholeheartedly.
It is gravely concerning that an influential slice of the media, over many years, has sought to insulate themselves from taking accountability for what they say or print – even when they know it to be distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason. When power is enjoyed without responsibility, the trust we all place in this much needed industry is degraded.
There is a real human cost to this way of doing business and it affects every corner of society.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have watched people they know – as well as complete strangers – have their lives completely pulled apart for no good reason, other than the fact that salacious gossip boosts advertising revenue.
With that said, please note that The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not be engaging with your outlet. There will be no corroboration and zero engagement. This is also a policy being instated for their communications team, in order to protect that team from the side of the industry that readers never see.
This policy is not about avoiding criticism. It’s not about shutting down public conversation or censoring accurate reporting. Media have every right to report on The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, good or bad. But it can’t be based on a lie. They also want to be very clear: this is not in any way a blanket policy for all media.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are looking forward to working with journalists and media organisations all over the world, engaging with grassroots media, regional and local media, and young, and up-and-coming journalists, to spotlight issues and causes that so desperately need acknowledging. And they look forward to doing whatever they can to help further opportunities for more diverse and underrepresented voices, who are needed now more than ever.
What they won’t do is offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion.
We are encouraged that this new approach will be heard and respected.’
Accepting the media has ‘every right’ to report on the high-profile ex-royals, they said: ‘This policy is not about avoiding criticism. It’s not about shutting down public conversation or censoring accurate reporting.
‘Media have every right to report on The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, good or bad. But it can’t be based on a lie.
But they faced a furious backlash, with Piers Morgan saying: ‘Thank god the British media is showing people reality of this and not relying on the word of a pampered little duke in his Malibu mansion telling us that we are exaggerating what is going on here.
‘I’m sorry to use tough language but the bottom line is I don’t want to hear from these two during this war if all they’re going to do is announce a new war with the media making it all about their little hurt feelings and their little ‘oh isn’t my life awful in my Malibu mansion. Shut up seriously.’
He added on Twitter: ‘Imagine thinking anyone cares about their hurt little me-me-me egos as health workers around the world are dying at work? What a pair of repulsive, deluded narcissistic tools.’