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Italian mag publishes topless Kate photos despite legal risk

Italy has a government agency responsible for enforcing privacy issues – but it says it’ll only act if the Royals ask it to.

Chi magazine has published a special edition with the title: 'The Queen is Nude!'.
Chi magazine has published a special edition with the title: 'The Queen is Nude!'.
Image: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

AN ITALIAN MAGAZINE owned by Silvio Berlusconi has published photos of the Duchess of Cambridge topless, despite the risk of legal action.

In a special edition, Chi splashed three photos of the topless duchess on its front cover and devoted 28 pages to the story with the headline “The Queen is Nude!”, even including a plastic surgeon’s analysis of the royal breasts.

The gossip weekly belongs to the former Italian prime minister’s publishing group Mondadori – part of a vast media empire – that also owns the French publication Closer, which first published the revealing photos last week.

The decision to run the images has incensed the royal family, whose lawyers have today sought a civil injunction and criminal charges in Paris – but Chi editor Alfonso Signorini said the pictures represented “extraordinary reportage” and were “not in violation of privacy.”

“For the first time, the future queen of England was appearing in a natural way, without the constraints of etiquette,” Signorini said.

A royal spokeswoman earlier hinted that the couple could also launch legal action against both Chi and the Irish Daily Star, which sparked outrage in Britain when it published the photos on Saturday.

The topless photos were taken through a powerful telephoto lens as Prince William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, relaxed in private at a chateau in the south of France.

Italy’s privacy laws are relatively strict but its justice system is notoriously slow.

A specialist lawyer, Alessandro Barretta, said the photos were “a clear and gratuitous violation” and the royal family could win “hundreds of thousands of euros” but added that they might want to avoid even more “clamour”.

The lawyer specified that in Italy the question of whether or not the photos were taken from a public place was not as significant as the fact that the place in the pictures was clearly intended to be private.

Watchdog will only act if Royals ask

Italy has a government agency charged with overseeing privacy issues which has the authority to block publication. Contacted by AFP, the agency said it could only intervene if asked to do so by Buckingham Palace.

Chi is no stranger to royal scandal, as it was one of the few publications to print a shocking photo of Prince William’s mother Diana dying of her injuries at the scene of a high-speed crash in Paris in 1997.

But in Italy, where pictures of celebrities sunbathing topless are a summer staple of the tabloid press, there has been little media interest in a scandal that has seethed in Britain, France and Ireland for four days now.

“I think there is also a cultural factor behind that fact that there has been so much scandal in England and not much in Italy. We Italians are more used to these kind of scandals,” Barretta told AFP.

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Berlusconi’s daughter Marina, who chairs Mondadori, was herself snapped topless by Chi in 2010 in what was seen less as a paparazzo incident and more a chance to show off an apparent breast enlargement.

“The topless Kate Middleton story is so boring. Does anyone really care?” said Domenico Naso, a blogger writing for the Il Fatto Quotidiano (‘The Daily Fact’) daily.

But Francesco Merlo, an editorial writer for La Repubblica, said in an open letter to Marina Berlusconi that the scandal was “hurting” her father.

Berlusconi “should have called the British ambassador to let Her Majesty know the photos had been blocked,” Merlo said, following a statement by Marina Berlusconi on Saturday that defended the magazines’ editorial independence.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Rabbitte: Closing Star over Kate pictures would be “nonsense”

More: Royals’ criminal complaint over topless pics lodged today

Plus: How the internet freaked out over Kate Middleton’s topless photos

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