Balance—the fine line we must walk in order to maintain adequate proportions on either side and to remain upright and steady. Balance is needed in all things in life, particularly in media.
Freedom of press, a foundational pillar that democracy was built on, is a necessary antidote for societal ills, injustice and corruption. Media holds both the power and responsibility to expose these wrongdoings, disseminate information and raise awareness on global issues. As fallible human beings, journalists and editors are bound to make mistakes and misjudgments, but there is also a certain level of integrity and ethics that the media must uphold. Just as the media holds a mirror to society, the media, too, must be held accountable.
Recently British tabloid media has come under scrutiny for a story published about a handwritten letter written by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, to her estranged father detailing the state of their relationship. Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has issued a royal statement calling out Associated Newspapers (now DMG Media) for the publication of the private letter. The royal couple’s lawyers are taking legal action against the British tabloid, citing “the misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.”
There is also a certain level of integrity and ethics that the media must uphold. Just as the media holds a mirror to society, it, too, must be held accountable.
Since the royal wedding last year (and even earlier when the two were dating), the Duchess has been the constant focus of negative headlines. Whether it was the alleged feud with Kate Middleton, her estranged relationship with her father and half siblings, or her hairstyle selection, Meghan has been the constant focus of the lens of British media. The question remains—how much is too much? Where is the balance between freedom of the press and paid press that seeks a story at any cost, even at the expense of other human beings?
In the statement, Prince Harry explains that the current legal action is in response to the recent letter publication, one grievance in a “long and disturbing pattern of behaviour” from the British tabloid media. He goes on to explain that “in addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you (the reader) by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year.”
Where is the balance between freedom of the press and corrupt and dishonest, paid press that seeks a story at any cost, even at the expense of other human beings?
Prince Harry’s words are both a call to action against corrupt media and also a husband’s battle cry to defend the honor and integrity of his wife. At some points of the statement, you can almost feel his frustration and hurt seething through. He says, “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.”
Prince Harry describes the publication’s behavior as bullying that “destroys people and destroys lives,” as well as “scares and silences people.” He attributes the loss of his mother, Princess Diana, to the same behavior from the media and says, “ I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
Here is an excerpt from the royal statement:
“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.
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… 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.”
What are your thoughts on the media’s role in society? How can media be held to standards of integrity and ethics without tampering with freedom of press?
Image via Sarah Kehoe for Darling Issue 12