Topless Duchess photos highlight privacy debate

September 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

Irish media has now joined French gossip magazine Closer in publishing photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless at a private residence in the south of France.

The Republic of Ireland tabloid, the Irish Daily Star has become just the second publication to print the photographs, taken when the Duke and Duchess were on holiday at the chateau of the Queen’s nephew, Lord Linley near Aix-en-Provence.

French and Irish have no qualms

While publications in the UK have refused to print the photographs, in spite of the fact that tabloids like the Sun and Daily Mirror are infamous for their ‘page three’ topless photos, the French and Irish publications have shown no such qualms.

Star editor, Mike O’Kane said he has treated Catherine as he would any other celebrity.

“The duchess would be no different to any other celeb pics we would get in, for example Rihanna or Lady Gaga,” he said. “She’s not the future queen of Ireland so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK,” he added.

Laurence Pieau, editor-in-chief of the French magazine, Closer, has expressed similar sentiments to O’Kane, defending her own magazine’s move and saying that the photographs are in no way degrading.

“There’s been an over-reaction to these photos. What we see is a young couple, who just got married, who are very much in love,” she said. Pieau then went on to say that, Catherine is a “real 21st Century princess. It’s a young woman who is topless, the same as you can see on any beach in France or around the world.”

Right to privacy

It is the second time in recent weeks that a member of the royal family has been photographed in a state of undress. In August a number of tabloids around the world, including British tabloid, the Sun, published images of Prince Harry in nothing but his birthday suit while partying at a Las Vegas casino.

The two incidences have once again brought to the forefront the question of privacy and freedom of the press when it comes to members of the British royal family. It is topic that is particularly sensitive for the two Princes, given that their mother, Diana was frequently hounded by the paparazzi.

It is easy to say that because they live their lives in the spotlight and are public figures that the royals should accept the fact that their privacy will be intruded on. But at the end of the day they are just human and have the same rights as you and I to have some moments that are kept out of the public eye.

In the public interest vs what the public is interested in

Press laws are meant to ensure that this is the case. In the UK, the Press Complaints Council’s (PCC) Code of Practice states that, when it comes to privacy, “It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent.” This includes, “public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy,” such as the chateau where the royal couple were staying.

Similar press codes exist in both France and Ireland, with the Irish Press Councils’ code stating that privacy is a universal human right and that, “Taking photographs of individuals in private places without their consent is not acceptable, unless justified by the public interest.”

Although editors often use this term, ‘in the public interest’ to justify publishing controversial material, it is difficult to understand how it applies to the recent images of both the Duchess of Cambridge and her brother-in-law, Prince Harry.

Unfortunately, when such images are likely to bring in sales that far outweigh the cost of any fine imposed by press watchdogs, tabloid publications will continue to publish photographs that intrude on the privacy, not just of the royal family but of celebrities in general.

Originally published for Mouth London.

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§ 2 Responses to Topless Duchess photos highlight privacy debate

  • I know that they’re in the public eye and that they should be well aware of the risks but I think that everybody is entitled to some privacy, just because we have the technology to pry into every aspect of people’s lives doesn’t mean we should. Personally, I’ve chosen not to buy into the media frenzy surrounding royals and celebrities (real and the wannabes) by leaving the gossip mags on the news stands.

    • I totally agree – they should have that privacy but I just think that because so much of the world has this celebrity-obsession that it is incredibly hard to come by and unless that changes it’s just not going to get any better.

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