Written by Bose Panama
Where freedom of expression is juxtaposed with entertainment, the resultant force is an uncomfortable alliance of inconvenient truth as questionable as sleeping with the enemy.
Whilst digital media watchers hail Markle’s dramatic victory in a society with an appetite for gossip, the stage is set for this saga and opera of privacy crafted for the moment of salacious gossip, and theatrical. Meghan Markle’s stance in this privacy showdown has far-reaching implications for the entertainment industry.
Cynism aside she did win on issues relating to a breach of her privacy, due to the unauthorised publication of extracts from a personal letter to her father Thomas Markle. What is more intriguing is Markle’s words afterwards. She indeed believed her private life had been invaded royal or no royal, superstar Hollywood actress or not, she implored: ” my privacy has been breached”, and the Lord Justice agreed, winning albeit on a summary judgement.
Lawyers know that the inevitable conclusion that the personal and private letter published without her consent caused her anguish and may have deepened the rift between father and daughter. Loaded with words and evidential irony her lawyers. argued quite rightly that the publication was ” a triple barrelled invasion of her privacy rights. “I could not agree more.
A brief preview to the background: Meghan Markle’s late mother-in-law Her Royal highness Princess Diana was tragically killed following excessive intrusion of her privacy and relentless pursuit by a hoard of paparazzi photographers, in a Paris culminated in her tragic demise. Meghan engagement to Prince Harry coupled with her superstar status as a Hollywood actress generated so much intrusive media attention, that she was hounded endlessly. Her father, Thomas Markle became a pawn in this media frenzy.
Prince Harry took the unprecedented step to break with royal protocol, complaining, and issuing a strong statement to the media of the significant impact and distress such an intrusion was causing his then-fiancee. Fast forward- all this culminated in the publication of a private and personal material for which she took an exception, with the support of her husband, feeling ‘enough is enough’. Press freedom and entertainment are strange bedfellows – Should something that should be in the public interest and in the public domain remain an enigma?
Naomi Campbell in a similar privacy infringement sued and successfully won her privacy battle when a photograph of her leaving a narcotics rehab was published unlawfully by a newspaper; she won.! Though a pyrrhic victory, in that she received only nominal damages; nonetheless, it was still a victory, because cases like these are not initiated because of the financial or monetary worth, but for the matter of principle.
While the court did not thoroughly test Meghan’s case; it is crystal clear that the pursuit of freedom of expression should not circumscribe or compromise our right to privacy in the name of entertainment, or what is deemed should be in the public domain, clothed in the public interest. Meghan Markle aptly puts it poignantly: “We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency and when companies create their business model to profit from people ‘s pain.”
The Daily Mail Newspaper was cautious in their response; they arguably felt blindsided. The paper argued it was in the public interest to set “the record straight “, that this was a case “crying out” to be heard. It eventually settled on the prospect of success, and reasonable expectation and the finding that ‘publication in the public interest’ was not a necessary proportionate means of serving that purpose, put succinctly, the judge upheld the “stance of the legitimacy of protecting Meghan s privacy.”
As a former lawyer, it will not be surprising, if the case rears its ugly head again in the form of an appeal by the newspaper, which will undoubtedly be mauling over the mitigation of settling the case or pursuing the uncertainty of an appeal.
whatever happens in the case, it is unlikely that the dust has settled. Watch this space: It will be naive for Markle’s lawyers to assume this soap opera has ended!
Bose Panama is a UK based immigration lawyer and writes for Glamsquad Magazine