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"It was vital for us to run them" - The Sun says...
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TODAY The Sun is publishing the naked Prince Harry party pictures our readers have been prevented from seeing in print.
We are doing so despite warnings from the Royal Family's lawyers - and we'll explain why.
Before we do, let's be clear on one thing.
The Sun is NOT making any moral judgement about Harry's nude frolics with girls in a Las Vegas hotel. Far from it. He often sails close to the wind for a Royal - but he's 27, single and a soldier. We like him.
We are publishing the photos because we think Sun readers have a right to see them.
The reasons for that go beyond this one story.
The images were first published on the web three days ago. But the Palace's lawyers, via the Press Complaints Commission, warned the UK's newspapers against printing them, claiming they would breach Harry's privacy and the PCC Code.
Since then the entire UK media - print, online and TV - has reported on them and told readers and viewers how to find them on TMZ.com, the website that first published them, and on countless other sites that followed suit.
That coverage put those pictures a mouse-click away from anyone in the 77 per cent of British households with internet access.
Millions duly found them on sites from Canada to New Zealand. By yesterday, the photographs were indisputably in the public domain everywhere in the world.
That generated a legitimate public debate about the behaviour of the man who is third in line to the throne and increasingly taking on official duties, as he did most recently at the Olympics' closing ceremony.
Yet as that debate went on in homes, factories, offices and pubs, the Press were still effectively banned from using the pictures.
The many millions of people who get their news in print, or have no web access, could not take a full part in that national conversation because they could not see the images.
The Royal Family's lawyers claim there is no public interest in The Sun running the photos. This is a favourite mantra of those who wish to muzzle the world's most vibrant newspapers, here in Britain - stuffily declaring that a story has "no public interest", as though it were an unassailable fact.
But there is a clear public interest in publishing the Harry pictures, in order for the debate around them to be fully informed. The photos have potential implications for the Prince's image representing Britain around the world.
There are questions over his security during the Las Vegas holiday.
Questions as to whether his position in the Army might be affected.
Further, we believe Harry has compromised his own privacy.
These are not pictures of him and a girlfriend at Balmoral. The Prince was in Vegas, the party capital of a country with strong freedom-of-speech laws, frolicking in the pool before inviting strangers to his hotel room for a game of strip billiards.
These are hardly the acts of a man jealously guarding his privacy.
And, sadly for Harry, what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.
Compare that with Prince William and Kate, whose desire for quiet privacy on their honeymoon was respected by the British Press (though not the Americans) in the kind of arrangement we have readily agreed to with the Royal Family in the past and will doubtless agree to again.
Lastly, we believe printing the photos IS within the Press Complaints Commission's code, based on a previous PCC ruling in favour of a UK magazine which published pictures already widely seen online.
On that occasion the PCC said that in privacy matters its code "required the Commission to have regard to the extent to which material is already in the public domain".
It concluded: "The Commission felt that the images were so widely established for it to be untenable for the Commission to rule that it was wrong for the magazine to use them."
We have asked the PCC to explain why this case could be any different.
The Prince Harry pictures are a crucial test of Britain's free Press.
It is absurd that in the internet age newspapers like The Sun could be stopped from publishing stories and pictures already seen by millions on the free-for-all that is the web.
It was vital for us to run them.

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