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LONDON: The British press rushed to the defence of Prince William’s wife Catherine on Saturday after grainy topless pictures of her were printed in a French gossip magazine.
The royal couple launched legal action on Friday against French magazine Closer — which is part of the media empire of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — over the paparazzi pictures of Catherine sunbathing.
Many of Saturday’s newspapers drew a comparison between Catherine, 30, and William’s mother Diana — who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 after being pursued through the streets by paparazzi.
“I won’t let Kate suffer like my mother,” was the Daily Mirror tabloid’s headline.
Denouncing Closer as a “Peeping Tom”, it declared: “Public figures who behave well have the right to a private life. A long lens prying on Kate sunbathing topless on a private estate is a clear breach of this right.”
Like several of its competitors, it juxtaposed images of Catherine wearing a white veil on Friday on her current trip to Malaysia, and Diana wearing a similar veil during a trip to Cairo in 1992.
The Daily Mail tabloid blasted Closer’s decision to print the images with the headline, “Grotesque!”, echoing the palace’s own words on the matter.
It described the publication of the photos as “an indefensible intrusion of privacy”.
Several British newspapers took a wider swipe at French media ethics and privacy laws.
“A French media which chose not to expose the love child of President Mitterrand and the behaviour of Dominique Strauss-Kahn shouldn’t be hounding a British royal,” said the Mirror.
The Sun added: “The final irony is that it is France — smug, privacy-obsessed France — that has published grossly intrusive pictures that no decent British paper would touch with a bargepole.”
Like its competitors, The Sun declined to print the photos — in sharp contrast to the storm it caused last month when it defied royal orders and printed nude pictures of William’s brother Prince Harry during a wild night in Las Vegas.
On Saturday, The Sun was at pains to argue there was a difference between the pictures of Catherine and the camera-phone snaps of the third-in-line to the throne, taken by fellow revellers during a game of “strip billiards”.
“Harry had no realistic expectation of privacy,” Britain’s top-selling newspaper said in an editorial.
“He invited large numbers of strangers to his hotel suite for alcohol-fuelled high jinks involving stripping naked without any checks on who was present.”
It added: “The pictures of Kate fall into an entirely different category. She was on a private holiday in a private chateau.”
With the press nervously awaiting a report by the judge-led inquiry into press ethics set up after last year’s phone-hacking scandal, several papers also saw a chance to defend their current system of self-regulation.
Judge Brian Leveson is due to reveal his findings later this year, and newspapers fear his report could include recommendations for a privacy law or for tough regulation of the press.
“Lord Leveson may care to note that an officially regulated French Press is the transgressor, while the self-regulating British papers are respecting the Duchess’s privacy,” the Daily Mirror said.
Several newspapers, meanwhile, were impressed by how Catherine continued with her engagements in Malaysia on Friday, despite the furore over the photos.
“She displayed magnificent dignity yesterday when she must have been boiling with anger,” said The Sun.
The right-leaning Telegraph added: “A couple of grainy photos taken on a very long lens seem like a small annoyance. But, given the way she handled herself yesterday, they might just be the making of her.” -- AFP