A group called the Society of Editors has penned an open letter accusing the British courts of press suppression, specifically pointing to Meghan Markle’s lawsuit against Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL). The group describes itself on its website as an agency committed to fighting for media freedom.
Though the complaints refer to multiple cases spanning a number of subjects, the Society of Editors used the Duchess of Sussex’s lawsuit — for which a hearing took place yesterday — as its prime example.
The presiding judge decreed that members of the press could not attend the hearing virtually and that only reporters who were physically present could listen in. The Society of Editors, which also goes by the acronym SoE, claimed that the decision to deny the press access to the proceedings was particularly egregious during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made it difficult for reporters to attend events on the ground.
The letter opened with the acknowledgment that the courts were facing difficulties navigating the requirements of social distancing and other issues during the novel coronavirus pandemic. It continued by expressing the society’s disappointment at the fact that remote access was not provided to the press and that no reason was given for banning the media’s virtual attendance.
“While we appreciate the difficulties that the Covid situation is presenting to the courts and judiciary, it is important that press access to hearings is maintained during this period,” wrote Ian Murray, Executive Director of the SoE. “Where space restrictions do prevent the press from attending hearings in person, it would be helpful for remote access to be provided. On the occasions where it cannot be, it would be helpful, to aid our understanding, to know why it cannot be facilitated.”
Murray added that he believes the justice system should reconsider its approach with the press, noting that many journalists were worried about being restricted from the trial, which had been previously scheduled for January 2021. As The Inquisitr reported, the trial has since been rescheduled to the following autumn after the duchess requested a postponement for a “confidential” reason.
Murray concluded the missive with the declaration that open justice was an important element of the system overall. The executive editor added that though the Markle case against ANL was a high-profile case, the sentiment should apply to cases with less media attention as well.
Meanwhile, both the duchess and her husband, Prince Harry, have been in recent headlines after reports surfaced that the duke was “furious” about being side-lined at his final event as a full-time royal.