The Sun has stirred up controversy by becoming the first British newspaper to publish the naked photos of Prince Harry.
The tabloid argues it is in the public interest to publish the photos and represents a “crucial” test of Britain’s free press.
Pictures of the prince frolicking in the nude with an unnamed woman in Las Vegas first appeared on the internet on Wednesday and made headlines around the world.
British newspapers decided against publishing the images on Thursday following a request from St James’s Palace, made via the press watchdog, to respect the prince’s privacy.
However, The Sun decided to print the pictures on Friday so the millions of people who have no internet access or get their news in print can “take a full part” in a “national conversation”.
The newspaper carries the headline: “Heir it is!” accompanied by an editorial outlining the reasons behind printing it.
It says: “The photos have potential implications for the Prince’s image representing Britain around the world.
“There are questions over his security during the Las Vegas holiday. Questions as to whether his position in the Army might be affected. Further, we believe Harry has compromised his own privacy.”
The editorial said it was “vital” the paper printed the pictures and described it as a “crucial test” of the free press.
“It is absurd that in the internet age newspapers like The Sun could be stopped from publishing stories and pictures already seen by millions on the free-for-all that is the web,” it said.
St James’s Palace said it was up to the newspapers whether they printed the pictures or not.
A spokesman from the palace 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.”
David Dinsmore, the Sun’s managing editor, said the paper had “thought long and hard” about whether to print the pictures and said it was down to the freedom of the press rather than moralising about Harry’s behaviour.
Dinsmore said: “The Sun is a responsible paper and it works closely with the royal family. We take heed of their wishes.
“We’re also big fans of Prince Harry, he does a huge amount of work for this country and for the military and for the image of both of 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.
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“This is about our readers getting involved in discussion with the man who’s third in line to the throne, it’s as simple as that.”