Prince Harry Vegas Photos: A Free Speech Issue, But One Not Relevant to Public Interest



The restraint on the British news media to print outrageous "publish and be damned" material imposed by the Leveson Inquiries related to the British tabloid phone-hacking scandal earlier this year crumbled on Friday, as The Sun became the first British tabloid to publish photos of Prince Harry cavorting naked with friends in Las Vegas.

I must admit, on one hand there is an ounce of admiration for the Sun in choosing to publish the photographs. But the thing that genuinely annoyed me is that the managing editor of The Sun said that the publication of these photographs were just because it is within the public interest. It's not. Rather, it's of interest to the public, which is something else entirely.

I have no objections to The Sun publishing the photos, I think a situation where a photograph can be published on the internet and seen by millions of people around the world but not by the people in the country concerned is a ridiculous situation to be in.

We're now in the post-Leveson era and it's fair to say that some newspapers are a bit scared because the inquiry has had something of a chilling effect.

During the Leveson inquiry into press standards, the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg mentioned introducing a clearer definition of what the public interest is. The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) code on the public interest states the following:

The public interest includes, but is not confined to: detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety; protecting public health and safety; preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

We all know Prince Harry as being a bit of a "lad," so the fact that he would get his kit off in a game of strip billiards is hardly surprising, let alone shocking for some people.

The Sun contested that the public interest defense for publishing the photos is justified because he is a member of the Royal family (and therefore funded by the taxpayer), is third in line to the throne, an army officer, ambassador to several charities and the Olympics and Paralympics in which he represented the Queen at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Games.

Whilst that is a fair argument it's wrong to say that it is within the public interest; there isn't any crime or serious impropriety that we can see in the photos, there is no threat to public health and safety, and Prince Harry hasn't intentionally misled anyone.

Had he been married or in a serious relationship or said "I don't indulge in games that involve getting my crown jewels out in front of everyone" or was involved in serious criminality that will harm a lot of people, then an invasion of privacy would be justified.

The only time The Sun ever mention that there is a public interest debate (that is relevant to the above stated points) is because it raises concerns about the security of the Royal family.

The point is that The Sun is wrong to say the the publication of photographs are in the public interest and that at the end of the day it's all about the sales and what titilates the public's imagination.