The Sun’s front-page Prince Harry pictures whip up storm of criticism
THE press watchdog received more than 850 complaints from the public yesterday after the Sun became the first British newspaper to publish images of Prince Harry cavorting naked in a Las Vegas hotel suite.
• The Sun was first British newspaper to publish naked photos of Prince Harry
• Las Vegas photos were ciculated widely on the internet
The tabloid, which carried the pictures two days after they appeared on an American website, argued the move was in the public interest and a “crucial” test of the country’s free press.
Last night, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) said it had yet to receive an official complaint from St James’s Palace or any other representatives of the prince, who is third in line to the throne.
Nearly all of the complaints from the public were about invasion of privacy.
A St James’s Palace spokeswoman said: “We have made our views on Prince Harry’s privacy known. Newspapers regulate themselves, so the publication of the photographs is ultimately a decision for editors to make.
“We have no further comment to make either on the publication of the photographs or on the story itself concerning Prince Harry’s private holiday in Las Vegas.”
The Palace said Prince Harry, 27, remained on leave and would return to his military duties, as an army officer and Apache helicopter pilot, in due course.
He has no public engagements in the coming days, although a video message he recorded in May to celebrate the start of the London Paralympic Games, was released yesterday.
The photographs of him frolicking with an unnamed woman made headlines around the world when they appeared on TMZ, a US-based website famous for its diet of celebrity gossip.
Until yesterday, no British newspapers had published the pictures following a request from St James’s Palace, made via the PCC, to respect his privacy. But the Sun published one of two naked pictures of Prince Harry on its front page, showing him standing in front of a naked girl with the headline “Heir it is!” A picture inside shows a back view of the prince, grasping a naked young woman, said to have been taken during a game of “strip pool”.
David Dinsmore, the Sun’s managing editor, defended the decision to publish the pictures. He said: “We’ve thought long and hard about this. The Sun is a responsible paper and it works closely with the Royal Family and we take heed of their wishes.
“And we’re also big fans of Prince Harry. He does a huge amount of work for this country and for the military and the image of both those institutions. We are not against him letting his hair down once in a while. For us, this is about the freedom of the press.”
He told BBC Radio 5 Live that the Sun did generally “fear” the PCC, but a decision had been taken to publish the pictures
because of the public interest.
“This is about the ludicrous situation where a picture can be seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world on the internet, but can’t be seen in the nation’s favourite paper,” Mr Dinsmore said. “This is about our readers getting involved in the discussion with the man who is third in line to the throne – it’s as simple as that.”
The Sun’s decision sparked a political row when former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, an alleged victim of phone hacking by News International, accused the tabloid of “absolute utter contempt” for the law and the Leveson Inquiry.
“It clearly is an interference with privacy,” he said. “It is not about privacy. It is about money, money, money. And they know that by exclusively printing the pictures, assuming they are the only [British] paper which does, they will get everybody buying the paper to see this.
“It’s nothing to do with the public interest or private interest – it’s profit, profit, profit.”
But Louise Mensch, a Tory MP on the culture, media and sport committee, claimed there was a “clear and demonstrable” public interest in the story.
She told the BBC: “The PCC, after the Leveson Inquiry, really ought not to be in the business of collectively telling newspaper editors they can’t run a story and they shouldn’t use their best judgment. That is the real sin in this story and the Sun was right to publish.”
London mayor Boris Johnson said he had a “deafening indifference” to the photographs’ publication. He said: “I think it would be disgraceful if a chap wasn’t allowed to have a bit of fun in Las Vegas anyway. The real scandal would be if you went all the way to Las Vegas and you didn’t misbehave in some trivial way.”
The Daily Mirror took the decision not to publish, arguing that to do so would be in “clear breach” of the PCC’s editors’ code of practice regarding the invasion of privacy.
In Scotland, the pictures were published by the Drum, a media and marketing website. Gordon Young, its editor, said: “From a media perspective, this is a complex issue with multiple levels, which includes Leveson, self-regulation and freedom of the press. In other words, it passes any public interest test.”
PCC spokesman Jonathan Collett said: “We’ve got to wait and see whether we do receive a formal complaint from representatives of Prince Harry. If we do so, then due process will be followed and we will look into it.”
In January, Lord Hunt, the PCC chairman, published a proposal for a new system of press self-regulation – as an alternative to statutory regulation – which could include fines for newspapers that are found to have breached an individual’s privacy.
A spokesman for Lord Justice Leveson, who is chairing the inquiry into media ethics, said he had no comment to make on the matter.
Meanwhile, Max Clifford, the public relations guru, yesterday said he had been approached by two women who claimed to have more material on Prince Harry and had been in his Las Vegas hotel room last week. But he had turned them down.
Mr Clifford said: “It’s an infringement of his privacy.”
In 1992, when the Daily Mirror published 18 pictures of the Duchess of York having her toe sucked by her “financial adviser”, John Bryan, while on holiday in St Tropez, the PCC did not receive a single complaint.
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