Prince Harry Wages War Against Tabloids Forced to Change, if Not Retreat


In his hacking trial being heard in a British court, Prince Harry aims to strike another blow against a tabloid industry that has long been accused of widespread abuses of privacy but has seen its excesses in recent years has been forced to stop.

So even if Harry, King Charles III’s younger son, wins his lawsuit against the Mirror Group of newspapers for allegedly hacking his cellphone more than a decade ago, analysts question the legal victory over those publications. How much impact will there be on what has already happened? Due to hefty legal settlements, jail time for their journalists and the threat of regulation to adapt.

Rajkumar, who took the stand on Tuesday, has been at war with a ruthless, freewheeling press for years. And since Britain’s phone-hacking scandal broke, it has forced the closure of a News Corporation publication, helped jail several prominent journalists, generated millions of pounds in legal fees and compensation for victims, and has led Parliament to seriously consider regulating the industry. .

At the same time, the once-mighty British tabloids have been weakened by a digital revolution that has transformed the global media landscape by slashing revenues, even as the public’s appetite for celebrity news has not diminished.

“Things have changed – not necessarily for the better, but they’ve certainly moved on,” said David Yelland, former editor of The Sun and founder of Kitchen Table Partners, a communications company. “Tabloid journalism doesn’t exist the way it used to.”

Mr Yelland said it was not that “there is no longer an invasion of privacy – particularly around the use of images taken from social media.” But he added that problematic media content is now more likely to emerge from comment by paying investigators to gain access to material recovered from someone’s rubbish bins or bank statements.

Lawyers for Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, accused the Mirror Group of newspapers of using private investigators to illegally gather information for stories that featured prominently from 1996 to 2011. . Photographers who used illegal means to track down Harry and his companions.

Harry is one of four plaintiffs, including two actors who appeared in the popular British television series “Coronation Street.” The case centers on allegations that the papers hacked Harry’s cellphone, as well as that of his brother, Prince William; Assistant; and an ex-girlfriend in the early 2000s.

Andrew Green, lead lawyer for the Mirror Group, argued in court on Monday that “there is no evidence that the Duke of Sussex was ever hacked.”

Phone hacking, the interception of voice-mail messages without permission, is illegal in Britain. But in the first decade of this century, there was widespread abuse by the tabloid media, including the fraudulent acquisition of personal information such as phone bills or medical records known as “blagging.”

The royal family was the main target, and in 2006-7, the royal editors of The News of the World, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcair, were convicted of intercepting voice-mail messages from royal associates.

Principal of Durham University’s South College and founding head of the Center for Journalism at the University of Kent, Prof. Timothy Luckhurst said the significant shift in media came after the shocking revelation that The News of the World, a Rupert Murdoch newspaper, had hacked the phone of a missing child, Millie Dowler, who was later killed. .

The case prompted an inquiry named for Judge Brian Leveson, and News Corp was closed in 2011. 168 year old newspaper.

“The Leveson Inquiry involved a really thorough examination and criticism of elements of the popular press in the UK, and led to recommendations that, if accepted, would have been the first state involvement in the regulation of the press. 17th century After the abolition of the press license in the UK,” said Professor Luckhurst.

Britain’s policymakers had long struggled with how to curb the excesses of the tabloids.

But the idea that Parliament would regulate those whose job it was to hold lawmakers to account proved to be too much of a threat to act as a deterrent on journalists. The regulation idea was eventually rejected amid wariness about stifling press freedom, Professor Luckhurst said, “but the press realized, at the time, that self-regulation would have to make significant improvements in conduct if it was going to endure. .”

“What Prince Harry is doing by going to court against the Mirror Group newspapers,” he added, “is essentially to reduce behavior that is largely – if at all – affected by the Leveson inquiry. First.”

Perhaps the most graphic example of phone hacking was the case of Andy Coulson, the former editor of The News of the World, who resigned in 2007 to become a Downing Street adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. After the hacking scandal resurfaced in 2011, Mr. Coulson not only lost his job, but also went to jail for his role in the scam.

Mr. Murdoch’s empire was It is reported to have paid a total of more than £1 billion in legal and other fees Also compensation for victims of journalistic abuse. According to a recent court filing by Harry, Prince William was among those who accepted a significant payment to avoid going to court.

British tabloids have since modified their approach rather than retreated, still serving up celebrity news and gossip but without overtly breaking the law.

In recent days, for example, the news media has been dominated by coverage of the resignation of former television host Philip Schofield, who admitted to lying about a relationship with a younger, male colleague while he was married.

“The fact that these stories emerge through apparently legal means and are reported through interviews and conversations with people with genuine sources is a change in behaviour, but does not suggest that the taste of the British public has changed. “There has been a change,” said Professor Luckhurst.

Social media has proven to be a valuable resource for journalists to pursue celebrity news. Mr Yelland, former editor of The Sun, said many tabloid journalists spend hours scrolling through the accounts of anyone connected to the rich and famous just to pounce on an ill-advised Facebook or Twitter post.

Some critics say that despite the change in tactics, the tabloids are still as irresponsible and powerful as ever – and they want tougher measures to be implemented.

“What they’ve lost in print circulation they’ve made up for in social media influence and influence over politicians,” said Brian Cathcart, former director of Hacked Off, a group campaigning for press accountability.

“They animate and direct the mob day by day and hour by hour,” he said, “making rational politics impossible but always serving the interests of their cynical and tyrannical masters.”

Yet for Prince Harry, a legal victory is likely to escalate his feud with the British tabloids, experts say.

“If you consistently go for them, they will go for you,” Mr. Yelland said. “The problem with the British press for Harry and Meghan is not an invasion of privacy; it’s commentary, it’s the way they configure their coverage.

“And if you have a generation of editors who hate them, they can do what they want on a day-to-day basis – even if Harry and Meghan win the case.”

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