UK press watchdog rejects Prince Harry's complaint over drugged wildlife article

Reuters London Jan 31, 2020, 09.03 AM(IST)

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex gestures during the draw for the Rugby League World Cup 2021 at Buckingham Palace in London on January 16, 2020. Photograph:( AFP )

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Harry, Queen Elizabeth's grandson, posted the pictures he had taken of African wildlife on his Instagram account, which then had 5.6 million followers, to mark Earth Day and highlight conservation efforts.

Britain's press watchdog has rejected a complaint by Prince Harry over a tabloid newspaper article which said wild animals pictured in photos he posted on Instagram had been drugged and tied up.

Harry, Queen Elizabeth's grandson, posted the pictures he had taken of African wildlife on his Instagram account, which then had 5.6 million followers, to mark Earth Day and highlight conservation efforts.

But the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported last April that the photos had not revealed the full story. It said the animals involved had been tranquilised and that a picture of an elephant in Malawi had been edited so that it was not possible to see there was a rope around its hind legs.

"Drugged and tethered ... what Harry didn’t tell you about those awe-inspiring wildlife photos," read the headline.

The prince argued the report was inaccurate because it indicated he had intentionally misled the public to think that he was a superior wildlife photographer who had captured the pictures under dangerous circumstances, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) watchdog said.

Harry said his caption had made clear the animals were being relocated as part of conservation efforts and that the photo had only been edited to meet Instagram's formatting requirements.

However, the paper said Harry had not explained the circumstances of the photo to his followers and that he had not needed to crop the pictures in the way he had.

IPSO's complaints committee supported the paper's argument and rejected Harry's claim that the article was inaccurate.

"The committee did not consider that it was significantly misleading to report that the photographs posted on the complainant’s Instagram account did not quite tell the full story and that the complainant had not explained the circumstances in which the photographs had been taken," it said.

Harry and his American wife Meghan have increasingly become embroiled in conflict with Britain's tabloid newspapers.

Meghan is suing the Mail on Sunday over its publication of a private letter she sent to her father, Thomas Markle, and Harry has accused some newspapers of bullying his wife in the same way they treated his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in 1997 as her limousine sped away from chasing paparazzi.

Earlier this month the couple, who are currently in Canada with their baby son Archie, announced they would no longer use their royal titles and were seeking an independent new life based mainly in North America.

Last week, lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as they are formally known, issued a warning to media not to use paparazzi pictures of the couple.