“The Prince Harry pictures are a crucial test of Britain’s free Press,” said The Sun’s editor, with no apparent trace of insincerity.
Rubbish. It was all about selling newspapers. If The Sun only wanted to make a point about the freedom of the press, they could have reported the story, written an editorial and given the link to the American website that started it all, so people could see the pictures of a naked Prince Harry for themselves if they so who wished.
Even after deciding to publish, they could have run the photos on an inside page (Page Three, perhaps?). But no, they put one on the front page. They were intent on humiliating one of the most popular members of the Royal Family – one who they say they “like”. I hate to think what they would do to somebody they did not.
But there is a deeper issue here. Respect and trust. Yes, Prince Harry was naïve to expect that anyone with a camera at his party would abide by requests not to publicise any photos taken, whether for financial gain or out of self-aggrandisement. But the media in England (not Scotland, note) decided that the decent thing to do would be to respect the wishes of St James’s Palace and not publish the photos. Nothing would be gained by their publication, as anybody who was desperate enough to see them could do so online. And the majority of people in the UK probably did not want to see them.
The Sun, however, clearly has no respect and made the decision for us, so newspaper shops around the land displayed more than 2 million copies of a naked man on the front page.
That is not freedom of the press. That is sensationalism – just what we have come to expect from The Sun and its now-defunct stable-mate The News of the World.
And then the paper’s ultimate owner, Rupert Murdoch, had the gall to tweet, “Prince Harry. Give him a break.” That has to be the most two-faced remark ever made by someone in a position of influence. The rest of us were prepared to give him a break, Rupert. Your paper was not.
The trouble is that anybody who criticises The Sun’s action is attacked as an enemy of a free press. Which was presumably part of Mr Murdoch’s game plan all along.
Several months ago, during a Parliamentary hearing, somebody asked whether Mr Murdoch was a fit person to own media interests in Britain. Now he has answered that question for us all.