The Duchess of Sussex has applied to the High Court to stop the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday from naming her five friends who spoke anonymously to a US magazine to defend her from tabloid “bullying”.
Markle is suing Associated Newspapers, publisher of the two titles and Mail Online, over articles which featured parts of a “private and confidential” letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
The five close friends of the duchess were interviewed but not named in a People magazine article in the US – something Markle says she was not involved with.
In the article, published in February last year, they spoke out against the bullying the duchess said she has faced. They have only been identified in confidential court documents.
In a witness statement submitted as part of the application, Markle said: “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 US media outlet more than a year ago, to defend me from the bullying behaviour 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.”
The duchess is suing for breach of privacy, copyright and data protection laws. She claims publication of her letter to her father was “intrusive and unlawful”.
Associated Newspapers has said it will “vigorously” defend the case.
Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville