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Prince Harry’s tabloid lawsuit sparks privacy debate

Prince Harry’s surprise appearance at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Monday to attend the first day of hearings in his privacy lawsuit against Daily Mail publishers Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) has sparked debate online.

The prince filed the lawsuit against ANL in October 2022 alleging unlawful information gathering techniques (including the bugging of cars and intercepting phone calls) with a number of high-profile co-claimants, including Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, and actress Elizabeth Hurley.

Harry’s appearance at the hearing was not announced beforehand and as such brought considerably more media attention to the proceeding along with the attendance of Elton John, Furnish and co-claimant Sadie Frost.

A number of social media posts have criticized Harry for making the journey to the United Kingdom for the hearing, calling into question the validity of making a high-profile appearance at the courts over a lawsuit concerned with privacy.

Broadcaster Piers Morgan, a notable critic of Harry and Meghan Markle, was among the social media commentators to take aim at the prince.

“Prince Harry, who’s spent the past few years ruthlessly invading the privacy of his family, friends and acquaintances, for huge financial gain, has turned up at court in London to complain about newspapers invading his privacy,” Morgan tweeted.

Others spoke out in support of Harry’s decision to attend despite privacy being a factor, highlighting that it draws positive attention to the hearing which might otherwise have been overlooked by the mainstream media and his right to fight against illegal tabloid practices.

“Get ready for all the ‘how dare he sue for privacy when they keep themselves in the limelight for money’ cries. Someone please crunch the number of interviews #PrinceHarry & #MeghanMarkle have done in the past 5 years vs. the number of tabloid stories written ABOUT them,” entertainment journalist Lisa Respers France posted to Twitter.

Broadcaster Sangita Myska criticized the fact that media coverage was focused on Harry and not the wider hearing. The hearing also includes allegations that Dame Doreen Lawrence had also been the target of illegal information-gathering techniques by journalists and their associates.

“Ffs. I wish people would stop losing their minds about Prince Harry pitching up at court and focus on the fact the Dame DOREEN LAWRENCE – mum of murdered black teenager Stephen – was allegedly spied on by the Daily Mail‘s publisher,” she tweeted.

This prompted a reply from historian Alex von Tunzelmann who wrote: “To be fair, I hope the fact that both Prince Harry and Elton John have turned up in person today means this story will get a lot more coverage than it might have done otherwise. I expect that’s why they’re there.”

Daily Mail columnist Richard Eden, also Tweeted about the prince’s appearance in London, which has been made despite an ongoing legal battle with the UK Home Office over the decision to remove his state funded bodyguards when he and Meghan Markle stepped down from their working roles within the monarchy .

“I’m confused. Britain is so dangerous for multi-millionaire #PrinceHarry that he needs hard-pressed taxpayers to fund police protection for him. Yet, the eco-campaigner has just made a round-trip of more than 10,000 miles for a court hearing he was not required to attend?” he said.

On the opposite side of the argument, Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a vocal supporter of Meghan and Harry and the author of This Is Why I Resistcalled out what she considered to be predictable criticism of the prince from the British media he has frequently spoken out against, most recently in his memoir Save and Netflix docuseries.

“I love that media is losing their minds they didn’t know Prince Harry is in UK & now ratty ‘royal experts’ will be rolled out for useless commentary,” she wrote on Twitter. “Next is blah blah about late Queen & accusing Harry of outshining King’s coronation with case against Daily Mail…1, 2, 3…”

The four-day hearing is due to close on Thursday with a deferred judgment being issued at a later date. Harry and his co-claimants have asked the presiding judge for a summary judgment, which would see a ruling is made on the strength of the initial arguments made without the need for a full trial by jury.

Both Harry and Meghan have seen themselves and their apparent desire for privacy become the center of pop-culture roasting in recent months, including a spoof parody being launched by adult animated comedy south park.

After the release of their Netflix docuseries in December 2022, the couple appeared to try and quash this false narrative that they stepped away from the monarchy for privacy reasons in a statement issued through a spokesperson.

“The Duke and Duchess have never cited privacy as the reason for stepping back. This distorted narrative was intended to trap the couple into silence,” the spokesperson said. “In fact, their statement announcing their decision to step back mentions nothing of privacy and reiterates their desire to continue their roles and public duties. Any suggestion otherwise speaks to a key point of this series.

“They are choosing to share their story, on their terms, and yet the tabloid media has created an entirely untrue narrative that permeates press coverage and public opinion. The facts are right in front of them.”

Newsweek reached out to representatives of Prince Harry via email for comment.

Prince Harry’s surprise appearance at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Monday to attend the first day of hearings in his privacy lawsuit against Daily Mail publishers Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) has sparked debate online.

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