Harry's modesty protected by media
Prince Harry's naked pictures are absent from Britain’s newspapers because editors are respecting past rulings on privacy and their own press watchdog, a leading lawyer said today.
The public have been able to read about the prince’s antics in a Las Vegas hotel suite during a “strip pool” party that left him holding his genitals while standing in front of a naked woman.
But to see the pictures, they have had to access the US-based celebrity gossip website TMZ that broke the story, or scores of other internet pages across the globe carrying the images.
British newspapers complied with a request from St James’s Palace, made via the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), to respect Harry’s privacy and not use the images as they were taken in a private hotel room.
Media commentators said the newspapers have been “neutered” by Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into media ethics.
But medial lawyer Mark Stephens said editors realised they had to comply with the wishes of St James’s Palace: “It’s because they were asked not to by the PCC and they accepted it was probably the better way to go.
“We have seen many examples, going right back to Mrs Simpson when she was being courted by the former king (Edward VIII), when the British press declined to publish a story that was widely available.
“What we have is a story running on social media which the reasonable media here haven’t taken up.”
He added that a number of high profile court cases involving celebrities had changed the way the press handle privacy.
“The courts have said for a long time that photographs are more intrusive (than words), like the Jamie Theakston case,” said Mr Stephens.
In 2002 a judge allowed a Sunday newspaper to publish the details, but not the photographs, of Theakston visiting a prostitute in a Mayfair vice club.
Mr Stephens said: “We don’t need to see the pictures, they are gratuitous. It’s for that reason they stay away from it.”
Former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis said he would have published the photos before the inquiry into media ethics began, and the Leveson hearings had “neutered” the press.
He told BBC’s Newsnight: “The situation is fun, it’s a good, classic newspaper situation. The problem is, in this post-Leveson era where newspapers are simply terrified of their own shadow, they daren’t do things that most of the country, if they saw it in the newspaper, would think ‘that’s a bit of a laugh’.”
One non-mainstream British website to publish the pictures was the Guido Fawkes political blog.
And the Sun also broke ranks, splashing on the story by creating a mock-up of one of the images with naked staff posing as Harry and the woman.
The prince is back in the UK and is not expected to attend the opening of the Paralympics next week but, military duties allowing, is likely to attend some of the events to support the country’s disabled athletes.