Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are taking a major step to protect their privacy from the tabloid press.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced on Tuesday that they are pursuing legal action against Associated Newspapers -- owners of the Daily Mail, MailOnline, Metro and more -- after the Mail on Sunday published a private, handwritten letter that Meghan wrote to her estranged father.
"As a couple, we believe in media freedom and objective, truthful reporting. We regard it as a cornerstone of democracy and in the current state of the world -- on every level -- we have never needed responsible media more," Harry said in an official statement on Tuesday. "Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences -- a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son."
"There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face -- as so many of you can relate to -- I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been. Because in today’s digital age, press fabrications are repurposed as truth across the globe. One day’s coverage is no longer tomorrow’s chip-paper."
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Harry's statement added that the couple's legal action has been "many months in the making," and calls out the publications in question for the "double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her almost daily for the past nine months; they have been able to create lie after lie at her expense simply because she has not been visible while on maternity leave."
"For these select media this is a game, and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start," he continued. "I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in."
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are also accusing the Mail of editing the letter, writing, "In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year.
"There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives," Harry added. "Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this."
The couple, currently on a royal tour of Africa, is using private funds for the case, according to multiple reports. ET has reached out to DMGT, formerly known as Associated Newspapers, for more information.
A spokesperson for the law firm Schillings, which the couple is employing in the case, said in a statement on Tuesday: "We have initiated legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday, and its parent company Associated Newspapers, over the intrusive and unlawful publication of a private letter written by the Duchess of Sussex, which is part of a campaign by this media group to publish false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband. Given the refusal of Associated Newspapers to resolve this issue satisfactorily, we have issued proceedings to redress this breach of privacy, infringement of copyright and the aforementioned media agenda."
In a statement to ET, a Mail on Sunday spokesman said: "The Mail on Sunday stands by the story it published and will be defending this case vigorously. Specifically, we categorically deny that the Duchess’s letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning."
For Harry, the issue is deeply personal. His mother, Princess Diana, was hounded by the British press throughout her life, and was fleeing paparazzi attention when she died in a car crash in Paris in August 1997.
"Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself," his statement concluded. "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. We thank you, the public, for your continued support. It is hugely appreciated. Although it may not seem like it, we really need it."