- Meghan Markle is asking the court to prevent the Mail on Sunday from sharing the confidential names of her friends who spoke to People for a story published last year.
- "These five women are not on trial, and nor am I," she said in a witness statement in her application filed in a court in London this week.
- The Mail on Sunday has since responded. "To set the record straight, The Mail on Sunday had absolutely no intention of publishing the identities of the five friends this weekend," they said. "But their evidence is at the heart of the case and we see no reason why their identities should be kept secret."
Meghan Markle's legal battle against the Mail on Sunday continues this week, with the duchess releasing a strong statement urging the court not to allow the publication of her friends' names.
Meghan's close friends spoke to People during the time of her pregnancy, revealing how the duchess felt as they were concerned about her mental and physical state as a result of the false and damaging articles by the UK tabloid media. A story, which the royal has said she had no knowledge of, was later published by People.
"As her friends had never seen her in this state before, they were rightly concerned for her welfare, specifically as she was pregnant, unprotected by the Institution and prohibited from defending herself," lawyers said on behalf of the duchess.
Now, in her case against the Mail on Sunday – Meghan is suing the publication for sharing extracts from a personal letter she'd sent to her father, and deliberately framing it to misrepresent herself and Prince Harry – she says they are also attempting to share the names of her five friends who spoke to People.
In a witness statement Meghan, in her application filed at the High Court in London, said: "Associated Newspapers, the owner of The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, is threatening to publish the names of five women – five private citizens – who made a choice on their own to speak anonymously with a US media outlet more than a year ago, to defend me from the bullying behaviour of Britain's tabloid media.
"These five women are not on trial, and nor am I. The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial. It is this publisher that acted unlawfully and is attempting to evade accountability; to create a circus and distract from the point of this case – that the Mail on Sunday unlawfully published my private letter."
She added: "Each of these women is a private citizen, young mother, and each has a basic right to privacy. Both the Mail on Sunday and the court system have their names on a confidential schedule, but for the Mail on Sunday to expose them in the public domain for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain is vicious and poses a threat to their emotional and mental wellbeing. The Mail on Sunday is playing a media game with real lives."
According to People, sources close to the Sussexes said Associated Newspapers' lawyers told them the confidential list of names should be "properly reportable by the media". If they did not respond, they would assume the names of the women were no longer confidential. The legal team believed it was a threat that they would go forth and publish the names of Meghan's friends.
A Mail on Sunday spokesman has since responded, reports ITV News. "To set the record straight, The Mail on Sunday had absolutely no intention of publishing the identities of the five friends this weekend," they said.
"But their evidence is at the heart of the case and we see no reason why their identities should be kept secret. That is why we told the duchess's lawyers last week that the question of their confidentiality should be properly considered by the court."