The trouble with Harry

A lawyer wants to ban certain newspapers from republishing photos of her client that are already in the public domain.

She connects with the UK Press Complaints Commission, which connects with the usual suspects at the tabloids, and the lawyer gets the desired result from all of them except The Sun, which gets on its high pony and publishes anyway.

It’s not Eritrea or North Korea, sure, but it’s still a method of censorship, and one that deserves attention, especially right now when the Leveson Inquiry is about to set benchmarks for the regulation of the UK mainstream media.

Index on Censorship’s Padraig Reidy has no doubt that in a pre-Leveson world, these pictures would have been published by the majority of newspapers. “Are they now being sensible and respectful?” he asks, “or timid and fearful of the Lord Justice’s wrath?”

Was the PCC’s ‘notification’ playing on those fears? You can make a slight but arguable case that publication could be in the public interest, and there seems to have been a token effort to ask the girls not to take photos, so Harry has a slim case to claim breach of privacy.

But given that his privacy had already been massively breached online, it’s now just pointless stable door slamming. The whole world has seen his bum. So why exert pressure on the UK media in this psuedo-quasi-legal way? What’s the message it’s meant to send?

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