May 14

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, defends press freedom


It was the first report on a speech given by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, that I can recall reported in the press.

She impressed her audience both as to the content of her speech and the professional style in which she delivered it. This was a serious comment, and on  a crucial issue.  


John Bingham, in a particularly incisive report in the London Daily Telegraph (11/5), referred to her speech “as a surprise intervention”.  It was, he said, set against the backdrop of the debate over privacy and the courts.  

The Duchesse said that she “passionately” believed in freedom of expression and insisted that no aspect of society should be free from scrutiny.

The right to "question, debate and criticise" everything should be a matter of national pride, she added.

..political correctness…

Interestingly, she warned that political correctness restricted free reporting. She described it as a “severe a form of censorship as any”.

"I believe freedom of expression, so long as it doesn’t contravene the law, or offend others, to be at the heart of our democratic system.

“In this, you play a vital, if not pivotal role,” she told the British press – who have often been most unkind to her.

She continued: “Just one note of caution: in our right to speak freely, please let us not become too politically correct, because surely political correctness is as severe a form of censorship as any.”

The Duchess referred to the  British sense of humour as “ridiculous, and cutting, naughty and incisive, affectionate and subversive” but criticized a recent tendency to publicise “cruel jokes”.

Mr. Bingham said her comments are timely amid renewed scrutiny over Britain’s de facto privacy laws.

He is absolutely correct on that.

…privacy and freedom of the press…

 In his excellent report, Mr. Bingham pointed out that her comments came a day after a landmark European Court of Human Rights ruling which threw out an attempt by Max Mosley, the former motor racing boss, to introduce new restrictions on the press to protect privacy.

Mr Mosley, whose taste for sadomasochistic sessions with prostitutes was exposed by a Sunday tabloid, wanted the court to force the media to warn the subjects of exposés in advance, Mr. Bingham  reported.


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