Royals and race reporting

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images).
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images).

By Amit Roy

IS THE British press racist, as Harry and Meghan al­leged in their recent inter­view with Oprah Winfrey?

The problem now is that far too many stories have been slanted against the Duchess of Sussex.

Let me give some exam­ples. Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Markle, who keeps spewing poison, but has nothing new to say, is repeatedly interviewed for her take on the duchess.

Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, who has tried to make a fistful of dollars out of his daughter, should not be sur­prised she has cut him off.

An old Fleet Street trick is to go to people who will say what you want them to say, otherwise you simply don’t quote them. That may not be racist, but it is certainly not fair reporting.

Ian Murray, executive di­rector of the Society of Editors, rejected assertions by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that a racist media had forced them to leave the UK.

“It is not acceptable for the Duke and Duchess to make such claims without providing any supporting evidence,” he declared, add­ing, “The UK media has nev­er shied away from holding a spotlight up to those in posi­tions of power, celebrity or influence…. the press is most certainly not racist.”

But he had to resign after an angry backlash not only from several influential edi­tors, among them Roula Khalaf of the Financial Times and Katharine Viner of the Guardian, but also from black and Asian jour­nalists. More than 200 of them signed an open letter to “deplore and reject” Mur­ray’s defence, pointing out that Meghan’s claims “reflect the depressingly familiar re­ality of how people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are por­trayed by the UK press on a daily basis”.

There have been attempts to compare Meghan with the late, much-hated Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. The twice-divorced Ameri­can woman triggered a con­stitutional crisis in 1936 when the British monarch Edward VIII had to abdicate in order to marry “the wom­an I love”.

But this was blown out of the water by US president Joe Biden, who heaped praise on Meghan. His press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the president believed in the power of individuals speak­ing out: “For anyone to come forward and speak about their own struggles with mental health and tell their own personal story, that takes courage and that’s certainly something the president believes.”

I do think there is a solu­tion to the problems of racial bias in the media. And that is to not only to recruit more black and Asian journalists, but also to appoint them to decision-making positions with real influence.

And that goes for Buck­ingham Palace, too.

However, it is not in the interest of British Asians to denigrate the royal family.

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