Kate photos: Phone-hacking row prompts UK restraint

Last Updated: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 17:53

London: Until some time ago, the British tabloid press would have gleefully published Kate Middleton`s nude photos but so far none has dared to do so, mostly due to the chilling effect of the ongoing inquiries into the phone- hacking controversy.

Stake-holders such as celebrity publicist Max Clifford admit that over the last year the tabloid press did not publish many sensational stories due to the effect of the inquiries and public revulsion over the ethics and practices of the press, in what is better known as the `Leveson effect`.

The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, ethics and practices of the press is the most high-profile inquiry set up in the wake of the phone-hacking row, with the press coming in for trenchant criticism from many key individuals, including top politicians, who gave evidence live on television.

As the nude photos of Duchess of Cambridge were published in France and now in Ireland, with an Italian publication due to follow shortly, there is a rare consensus in the British press not to publish her pictures.
The consensus has held on, so far.

Prince William has reportedly vowed to ensure that his wife did not suffer the same intrusion of privacy as his mother Princess Diana did, but it may pose a unique challenge in the age of the internet and social media.

The issue is another example of a problem that the Leveson Inquiry is also grappling with: how to regulate content on the internet even if restraint (self or imposed) in the press leads to the non-publication of such photos in the printed press.

Even Rupert Murdoch`s The Sun, which broke ranks and published nude photographs of Prince Harry in Las Vegas, decided not to publish Middleton`s photos.

Other tabloids such as The Mirror were offered the photographs, but turned them down.

Confirming The Sun`s decision not to publish Middleton`s photos, editor Dominic Mohan said the circumst

ances were different from those concerning Prince Harry`s photographs.
He said: "The circumstances are very different to those relating to the photos of Prince Harry in Las Vegas. As we said at the time, he was at a party in a hotel suite with a large group of strangers and one of those present released a photograph into the public domain."

The argument in Middleton`s case is that she was not in a public place, but at a private property, with a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Roy Greenslade, a prominent commentator on the media, said of Middleton`s photographs: "I don`t think a British newspaper or magazine would dare to publish. It would be in breach of the editors` code of practice... And you would need to have a public interest reason for overcoming that."

PTI



First Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 17:50

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