After the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday “threatened” to reveal the names of Duchess Meghan's five friends who gave anonymous interviews in her defense, she has attempted to block the British tabloid’s “vicious” attempt to create “clickbait” out of their ongoing court case, according to a new legal statement obtained by BAZAAR.com.
In her response, the Duchess of Sussex has accused the publisher of trying to expose her friends “in the public domain for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain,” warning that the action is “vicious and poses a threat to their emotional and mental wellbeing.”
The friends, who independently chose to speak with People magazine in early 2019 to defend the duchess from British tabloid attacks, are each “a private citizen and young mother,” writes Meghan, adding that the Mail is “playing a media game with real lives."
Meghan has repeatedly stated in legal responses to its publisher, Associated Newspapers, that she knew nothing of her five friends’ cooperation with People magazine until after the issue was published. On the grounds of copyright infringement and invasion of privacy, she is suing the Mail on Sunday for publishing a handwritten letter sent to her father, which was first made known in People by one of the friends.
“These five women are not on trial, and nor am I,” Meghan says in a July 9 witness statement filed at London’s High Court of Justice. "The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial. It is this publisher that acted unlawfully and is attempting to evade accountability; to create a circus and distract from the point of this case—that the Mail on Sunday unlawfully published my private letter.”
She continues, “Each of these women is a private citizen, young mother, and each has a basic right to privacy. Both the Mail on Sunday and the court system have their names on a confidential schedule, but for the Mail on Sunday to expose them in the public domain for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain is vicious and poses a threat to their emotional and mental wellbeing.”
A spokesperson from the Mail on Sunday responded in a separate statement, saying, "To set the record straight, the Mail on Sunday had absolutely no intention of publishing the identities of the five friends this weekend. But their evidence is at the heart of the case and we see no reason why their identities should be kept secret. That is why we told the Duchess’s lawyers last week that the question of their confidentiality should be properly considered by the Court."
A source close to the duchess reiterates to BAZAAR that the names of the five friends were only shared with the Judge and to the Mail for its defense, in strict confidence as part of the court process. “We vehemently believe that the Mail’s threat to publish has nothing to do with the case, and is only being done so the Mail can target five innocent women through the pages of its newspapers and its website,” the source explains. "Lawyers for the Mail on Sunday brazenly challenged the Duchess to seek further court action to try to stop them, saying that if she didn’t, they would publish," the source alleges. "We have therefore submitted an application to ask the court to ensure that the names contained in the confidential filing, are kept confidential."
Meghan’s witness statement, which lists her at the address of Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, her home at he time the case was filed though she is now based in L.A., goes on to ask the judge that the court treats the legal matter “with the sensitivity it deserves.” She also pointed out that the Mail and other newspapers rely on such precedent to protect “their own unnamed sources.”
“We argue that it is an attempt to intimidate the duchess and her friends in her ongoing lawsuit against their newspaper’s unlawful behavior,” the source adds. “For several months, the publisher of the Mail on Sunday has attempted to manipulate the narrative behind this case for their own ends—seemingly in denial of their status as defendants—by manufacturing salacious headlines and inaccurate stories that incite clickbait. By contrast, the duchess has remained silent other than providing necessary legal documents.”
Intimidation of witnesses is highly illegal and, as a source close to the duchess claims, publishing the names of Meghan’s friends would “represent a clear and substantial conflict of interest. Ultimately, it could lead to the intimidation of potential witnesses in a forthcoming trial.”
The source continues, “Failure to protect these women would enable the Mail on Sunday to publish an ‘exclusive’ story about their personal lives, thereby declaring open season for other tabloids and media outlets to follow suit.”
A decision on whether to grant an injunction preventing the publication of names in a Mail publication will be made at a hearing to come.
Read the Duchess of Sussex's statement in full below.
I confirm that save where otherwise appears, the facts stated in this witness statement are within my own knowledge and that those facts are true to the best of my knowledge and belief. Where facts are not within my own knowledge, I confirm that they are true to the best of my information and belief and the source of that information is set out.
I make this witness statement in support of my application that a non-party may not access the confidential schedule without first applying to the court on notice to my solicitors, and that the information contained in the Confidential Schedule must not be used by the Defendant for any purpose except for that of these proceedings.
Associated Newspapers, the owner of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, is threatening to publish the names of five women—five private citizens—who made a choice on their own to speak anonymously with a U.S. media outlet more than a year ago, to defend me from the bullying behavior of Britain’s tabloid media.
These five women are not on trial, and nor am I. The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial. It is this publisher that acted unlawfully and is attempting to evade accountability; to create a circus and distract from the point of this case—that the Mail on Sunday unlawfully published my private letter.
Each of these women is a private citizen, young mother, and each has a basic right to privacy. Both the Mail on Sunday and the court system have their names on a confidential schedule, but for the Mail on Sunday to expose them in the public domain for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain is vicious and poses a threat to their emotional and mental wellbeing. The Mail on Sunday is playing a media game with real lives.
I respectfully ask the court to treat this legal matter with the sensitivity it deserves, and to prevent the publisher of the Mail on Sunday from breaking precedent and abusing the legal process by identifying these anonymous individuals—a privilege that these newspapers in fact rely upon to protect their own unnamed sources.
I believe that the facts stated in this Witness Statement are true. I understand that proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against anyone who makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth.
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