'Give Prince Harry a break,' Rupert Murdoch urges

Selection of UK newspaper front pages (23/08/2012) The Prince Harry pictures generated front-page coverage in the UK

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Rupert Murdoch has urged Prince Harry's critics to give him "a break" in the wake of the controversy over naked photographs of him.

It comes after the Sun, owned by Mr Murdoch, became the first UK newspaper to publish the images of the prince, taken in Las Vegas.

Mr Murdoch used his Twitter account to voice his support for Harry.

The culture secretary said he did not think it was in the public interest for the Sun to publish the photographs.

News International owner Mr Murdoch wrote: "Prince Harry. Give him a break. He may be on the public payroll one way or another, but the public loves him, even to enjoy Las Vegas."

More than 850 complaints have been made to the press watchdog about the photographs.

Nearly all concern invasion of privacy and will be investigated by the Press Complaints Commission in due course.

On Friday, the Sun published the photographs under the headline "Heir it is". The paper added: "Pic of naked Harry you've already seen on the internet."

It argued that printing the images was in the public interest and a "crucial" test of the country's free press.

Sun managing editor David Dinsmore said it would have been "perverse" not to publish the pictures, which "are now in the public domain in every country in the world".

'Utter contempt'

Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: "We have a free press and I don't think it's right for politicians to tell newspaper editors what they can and can't publish, that must be a matter for newspaper editors.

"I just hope that people won't remember this but they'll remember the good work that Prince Harry has done."

The decision by British newspapers not to publish the pictures despite their publication elsewhere had prompted a debate about the impact the Leveson Inquiry was having on press behaviour.

Former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis said it showed British newspapers had been "neutered".

The inquiry was set up to investigate the practices and ethics of the press following the phone-hacking scandal.

Ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the Sun had shown "absolute utter contempt" for the law and the Leveson Inquiry.

Former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie told Newsnight that in his opinion the decision to publish the pictures could not have been made without Mr Murdoch's consent.

The pictures emerged from a private weekend the prince spent with friends. The two photos of the prince and a naked woman in a hotel room are believed to have been taken on a camera phone on 17 August.

They first appeared on US website TMZ earlier this week, which reported that he had been in a group playing "strip billiards".

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