Meghan Markle is attempting to protect the identity of five of her friends as her court battle with the Mail on Sunday and Associate Newspapers continues. The friends in question defended her in a People magazine article last year and have been named in confidential court documents.
Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday thinks the friends' identities should not be kept a secret as "their evidence is at the heart of the case," The Telegraph reports.
A spokesperson for the Mail on Sunday says the publication has "absolutely no intention" of publishing the identities of the friends, and told Markle's lawyers they wanted the question of their anonymity "properly considered by the court."
A source close to Markle tells ET, "Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, has threatened to publicly name confidential potential witnesses in their paper, so we have filed an application to stop them today."
The source adds that the Mail on Sunday's attempts to name these women is a continued effort to "intimidate" and "target" Markle and her friends.
"These women should not face the threat of intrusive media behavior that is motivated by a media outlet’s drive for commercial gain," the source says.
A separate source tells ET that the Mail on Sunday does not plan to publish the names.
In a statement obtained by ET, the duchess urged the court to do keep the identities of her friends anonymous.
Markle referred to her friends in the court docs as "private citizens" and noted they are all "young mother[s]." She added that she was not involved in their decision to speak with People, saying they "made the choice on their own to speak anonymously with a U.S. media outlet more than a year ago, to defend me from the bullying behavior of Britain's tabloid media."
Markle added that the Mail on Sunday is attempting to expose her friends for "clickbait and commercial gain," which she says "poses a threat to their emotional and mental well-being."
Lawyers for Markle also say they are concerned that if the identities of her friends are leaked, they may not be willing to give evidence to help support her case in court.
The anonymous friends in question gave an interview to People magazine last year defending Markle and mentioning her letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. That letter was later published by the Mail on Sunday, which is the grounds for the duchess' case against the tabloid.