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Prince Harry Says Media Have Betrayed ‘Promises’ Made After Diana’s Death

Prince Harry has accused the media of a “major betrayal” over allegations of illegal information gathering techniques used to inform stories about him, given “promises” made in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s 1997 death to “improve its conduct,” court filings have revealed .

Harry attended the first day of hearings at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Monday in his lawsuit against Daily Mail publishers Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), over a series of privacy breaches made against him and those close to him including alleged bugging, phone-hacking and wiretapping.

The prince is joined in bringing the lawsuit with a number of other high-profile co-claimants including Sir Elton John and his husband, David Furnish.

ANL has vigorously denied the allegations made against it and argued for the case to be dismissed as the allegations are too old, with Harry’s ranging from “at least as early as 2001 until at least as late [as] 2013 and beyond.”

Typically, cases that are more than 6 years old would be considered too old to go ahead. However, the prince’s team can argue he was not aware of the illegal activity being made against him until more recently, which could see his claims progress.

In legal filings seen by NewsweekHarry drew damning parallels between his alleged treatment at the hands of ANL and the “promises” made by the media to reform dangerous practices after the death of Princess Diana from injuries sustained in a car crash while she was being pursued by paparazzi.

The prince’s legal team argued: “As a senior member of the Royal Family at all material times, Associated’s pursuit of detail as to information as to his private travel plans and publication of the same through the Unlawful Articles caused a significant security risk to the Claimant which was grossly irresponsible as it was dangerous.

“Moreover, the Claimant regards Associated’s Unlawful Acts to amount to a major betrayal given promises made by the media to improve its conduct following the tragic and untimely death of his mother, Princess Diana, in 1997.”

Immediately after Diana’s death, the tide of public opinion began to turn against the tabloid newspapers that had covered every aspect of her life since her marriage to King Charles, then the Prince of Wales, in 1981.

Giving his initial reaction to his sister’s untimely loss of life at the age of just 36, Diana’s brother, Charles, Earl Spencer, said from his home in South Africa in November 1997 that newspaper editors had “blood on their hands.”

“This is not a time for recriminations, but for sadness,” he said at the time. “However, I would say that I always believed the press would kill her in the end. But not even I could imagine that they would take such a direct hand in her death as seems to be the case.

“It would appear that every proprietor and editor of every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encourage greedy and ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana’s image, has blood on their hands today,” Charles said. “The one consolation is that Diana is now in a place where no human being can ever touch her again. I pray that she rests in peace.”

A number of press organizations signaled that changes would be made in the aftermath of the accident, which included the Daily Mail‘s owner, Lord Rothermere, announcing that the title would extend caution when paparazzi photographs were used in the future.

“I am, and always have been, an admirer of Diana, Princess of Wales, and nagged my editors to protect her so far as they could against her powerful enemies,” Rothermere said at the time, per The Guardians. “In view of Earl Spencer’s strong words and my own sense of outrage, I have instructed my editors no ‘paparazzi’ pictures are to be purchased without my knowledge and consent.”

Prince Harry has spoken out on a number of occasions against what he has deemed to be intrusive and unacceptable press attention he has experienced with his wife, Meghan Markle.

In 2016, the prince issued a statement via a Kensington Palace communications secretary condemning the “racial undertones” of comment articles in the tabloid media about Meghan. It went on to add that Harry was “worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to look for a storm.”

A similar statement was released in 2019 when as a couple, Harry and Meghan announced that they were bringing legal action against tabloids, including The Mail on Sunday, after the publication of a private letter written by Meghan to her father, Thomas Markle. She would go on to win the suit in 2021.

In the statement, Harry referenced the treatment his mother faced and how he feared history was repeating itself with his wife.

“Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one,” he said of taking tabloids to court. “Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. 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. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

Hearings regarding Harry’s unlawful information-gathering lawsuit against ANL are scheduled to close on Thursday with a judgment expected to be deferred and issued at a later date.

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek’s royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek’s The Royals Facebook page.

Prince Harry has accused the media of a “major betrayal” over allegations of illegal information gathering techniques used to inform stories about him, given “promises” made in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s 1997 death to “improve its conduct,” court filings have revealed .

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