'Why did we publish the Prince Harry picture story?' is a question we have been asked a lot over the last 24 hours. A better question is, why on earth wouldn’t we?
These pictures, as published by the New York Daily News, appeared in a blog written by Noel Young, a former UK tabloid editor and now our US correspondent. He eloquently argued that the UK press's decision to censor itself was hypocritical and farcical.
He wrote: “Cowed by Leveson, fear of what's to come and all the scandal emanating out of the phone-hacking affair, not one UK paper has had the balls - pardon the phrase - to let its readers see the most-discussed pictures of the year.” (Until the Sun's move today, that is!)
In that context it would have been odd to criticise UK newspapers, if we then didn’t have the balls to follow through ourselves.
But of course there is more to it than that. Noel Young was writing from the US whose media, normally far more prudish than their UK counterparts, had already had a field day with these pictures. That, together with the fact that they are all over the internet, makes the whole issue of privacy a bit of a moot point. These shots are the most debated pictures of the year so far.
However, to The Drum our primary interest is not Prince Harry himself. We wanted to tell the story of the story. And from a media perspective this is a complex issue with multiple levels, which includes Leveson, self-regulation and freedom of the press. In other words it passes any public interest test.
This week The Drum has also been covering the Pussy Riot case, which has led to senior politicians from the likes of the UK criticising the Russian authorities for attacking freedom of expression. It seems odd if The Drum supports a campaign for freedom of expression one day, and then is engaged in self-censorship the next.
But there is a another level to this complex issue. The Drum is not only a UK website. Around 20% of our traffic comes from the US, for example. Our global audience would have been wondering what was going on if we missed out such an important part of the story.
The issue of national regulation, in a global market, is in our view one of the biggest challenges for policy makers.
No doubt they will relish getting this job done. In the meantime, we will carry on doing our job which is reporting the news.
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