Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have fanned the flames of their ongoing battle with the British tabloid media with a strongly worded attack issued to several outlets.
The LA-based couple – who have long had a fractured relationship with the press – sent the same letter to the editors of the Sun, Daily Mail, the Mirror and the Express on Sunday night, which announced their new policy of "zero engagement", explaining that they will no longer respond to requests from any of their staff.
Harry and Meghan's representative said they refused to "offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion" and accused the tabloids of running stories that are "distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason".
In the scathing letter, the free press was described as "a cornerstone to any democracy" that can "shine light on dark places, telling stories that would otherwise go untold, standing up for what's right, challenging power, and holding those who abuse the system to account".
"It is gravely concerning that an influential slice of the media, over many years, has sought to insulate themselves from taking accountability for what they say or print – even when they know it to be distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason.
"When power is enjoyed without responsibility, the trust we all place in this much-needed industry is degraded.
"There is a real human cost to this way of doing business and it affects every corner of society. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have watched people they know – as well as complete strangers – have their lives completely pulled apart for no good reason, other than the fact that salacious gossip boosts advertising revenue."
After declaring that they would no longer be responding to any communication from the British outlets, the representative went on to stress that it was not about "avoiding criticism".
"It's not about shutting down public conversation or censoring accurate reporting. Media have every right to report on and indeed have an opinion on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, good or bad. But it can't be based on a lie."
It follows Harry's explosive statement last October, in which he personally condemned a "ruthless media campaign" against his wife, and announced legal action against the UK's Daily Mail over its publication of a private letter by Meghan, which the couple allege was published illegally and selectively edited to hide "lies" reported about her.
In his furious tirade, Harry personally condemned the claims that had surrounded his wife over the previous nine months and admitted it had been "painful" for both of them.
"Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences — a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son," Harry wrote on the Royal Family's official website.
"There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face — as so many of you can relate to — I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been."