The Mail Online invaded the privacy of Prince Harry with a news story and beach photos of his vacation with his girlfriend, actress Meghan Markle, the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled.
A Kensington Palace spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail: “We are pleased the matter is now resolved”.
The March 4 article, “Time to cool off! Happy (and hunky) Prince Harry enjoys a dip in the ocean as he and Meghan relax on the beach in Jamaica after his ‘wingman’s’ sun-drenched wedding,” featured grainy photos of the prince and Markle. Prince Harry told IPSO that he was on a private beach where the paparazzi were banned and that he was on a private vacation. The prince added that the nearest public area was 500 meters, or about 550 yards, away. In addition, the Mail Online failed to respond promptly to his representatives multiple complaints about the photos, he said.
The Mail seemingly blamed the invasion of privacy on its photographer, claiming it thought Prince Harry and Markle were on a public beach and that the photos “seemed innocuous,” according to IPSO. The Mail said it didn’t respond immediately because it was trying to contact the photographer to get a response to the prince’s claims.
After Prince Harry complained to IPSO, the Mail agreed to remove the photos and apologize. Despite that, IPSO still ruled against the Mail, finding that the photos were an invasion of privacy with no public interest. IPSO noted that despite the Mail Online’s claim that it thought Prince Harry was on a private beach, “the article itself stated that [the prince] was staying at a private resort.” In addition, the prince didn’t know he was being photographed and the photographer was 700-800 yards away.
Further, IPSO ruled it was a “significant and unjustified intrusion” to publish photos of the couple in bathing suits on a private vacation. “Photographing an individual in such circumstances is unacceptable, unless it can be justified in the public interest,” IPSO ruled. “The publication had not sought to justify the publication of the images in the public interest.”
The Mail was ordered to publish the IPSO ruling against it on its homepage for 24 hours. iMediaEthics has written to the Mail Online for a response to the ruling and to ask if it will continue to use the photographer in question.
Last year, Prince Harry complained to IPSO over news stories from the Mail and the Star saying that he was in a “secret romance” with his sister-in-law Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa Middleton. In that case, IPSO ruled against the Star for claiming it contacted Prince Harry’s representatives for comment when it never did; it ruled the Mail’s story was fine because it properly attributed the claims and used distancing language and a tone to suggest the claims weren’t true.
In 2012, IPSO’s predecessor, the Press Complaints Commission, received more than 3,000 complaints over the UK Sun’s publication of naked photos of Prince Harry, but since the prince himself never complained, the PCC didn’t investigate or rule on the matter.
The UK press regulator IPSO regulates approximately 2,500 UK newspapers and magazines, and can investigate and require member publications to publish corrections or rulings. Anyone can complain to IPSO about any member publication possibly breaking IPSO’s Editors’ Code of Practice within four months of an article’s publication. To submit a complaint about any IPSO member, go here to the IPSO website. Other press regulators and councils operate under their own rules.