Le Monde 'censored' over Prince Charles

16th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Nov 11 (AFP) - A controversy centred on claims that Prince Charles was involved in a sexual incident with a royal servant provoked accusations of censorship Tuesday after European newspapers reporting the allegations were prevented from delivering to news stands across Britain.

LONDON, Nov 11 (AFP) - A controversy centred on claims that Prince Charles was involved in a sexual incident with a royal servant provoked accusations of censorship Tuesday after European newspapers reporting the allegations were prevented from delivering to news stands across Britain.

"European press censored in England," was the verdict of France's Le Monde in a headline on its website, after its British distributor, fearful of legal action, refused to deliver the newspaper.

The move followed some 15 European newspapers which carried reports on the alleged scandal, including France's Le Figaro, Italy's La Stampa and Spain's El Pais, being taken off British news stands on Saturday, Le Monde noted.

Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, is at the centre of swirling rumors triggered by a High Court injunction barring the British press from reporting allegations that he was involved in a compromising incident.

The claims, which apparently originated from a former royal valet, have been repeated outside Britain, and on Sunday a newspaper in Scotland - which enjoys a different legal system than England and Wales - reported the claims.

The London-based press has only gone so far as to report that the allegations concern an incident of a sexual nature, and that Charles was in some way involved.

A spokesman for the prince last week took the unprecedented step of issuing a  statement categorically denying the allegations, without saying what exactly it was that Charles denied.

If the tactic intended to put a lid on the media rumour-mill, it failed badly, serving instead to further intensify interest in the affair.

An article in the Tuesday edition of Le Monde, which hit French news kiosks on Monday, recounted the various twists and turns in the controversy.

Le Monde reported that the London-based Financial Times business daily, which distributes the French paper in Britain, said it feared legal action stemming from the article and decided to keep the paper off the shelves.

Copies of Le Monde sent to Britain from Paris via the Eurostar train were collected Tuesday upon their arrival in London and destroyed. Some 7,000 copies of the French newspaper are distributed per day in Britain.

Joanna Manning-Cooper, director of communications for the Financial Times, told AFP that distributors as well as publishers could be held liable in any infringement of a court order.

"We took legal advice and on the grounds of that legal advice we took the decision not to distribute Le Monde in the UK today," Manning-Cooper said.

According to Le Monde, the Financial Times apologised and expressed its "frustration" at having to take such action, particularly "over a story which is apparently widely disseminated on the Internet".

But the British business daily stressed that "British law is very difficult in this matter and we do not feel that there is any other realistic course of action", according to the French newspaper.

A source at the International Press Network, the distributor in Britain of papers including France's Liberation and Le Figaro, and Italy's La Stampa and Corriere della Sera, told AFP: "There is an injunction from the High Court which means that the newspapers could not be published" because of their "suspicious content".

"I cannot say any more unfortunately, I've been told not to comment," said the source, who asked not to be named.


© AFP


Subject: French news

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