Prince Harry has lost an Ipso complaint over a Mail on Sunday story that revealed he had photos taken with a ‘drugged and tethered’ elephant.
The Duke of Sussex complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation saying the paper had breached Clause 1 of its Editors’ Code of Practice, ‘Accuracy’, regarding the article published on April 28 last year.
Harry had posted wildlife pictures on the Sussex Royal Instagram page for Earth Day – images used by The Mail on Sunday for a story with the headline: ‘Drugged and tethered… what Harry didn’t tell you about those awe-inspiring wildlife photos’.
It was reported that the images ‘don’t quite tell the full story’ as they did not show the rope around the back legs of one of the pictured elephants, adding that the complainant ‘notably avoided explaining the circumstances in which the images were taken’.
The article reported that a spokesperson for the complainant had declined to discuss the photos, though ‘sources denied the rope was deliberately edited out of the elephant picture, claiming instead that ”it was due to Instagram’s format”.’
All three of the animals involved – a rhino, elephant and lion – had been tranquilised and the elephant had also been tethered as they were being relocated as part of conservation projects, it was reported.
This is the edited photograph of the elephant taken in Malawi that appeared to mark Earth Day on Prince Harry’s official Instagram page
The same photograph from another angle, which shows that the elephant had been tethered
Harry said the article was inaccurate because it implied he had deliberately misled the public through cropping. Ipso ruled that the code had not been breached, finding that there had been ‘no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information’.
The duke had argued that the full uncropped photograph was published on the Royal Family website in 2016 and has been publicly available ever since, adding that it was also published on the conservation group website – which he provided a link to – with a description and video of the tranquilising and tethering.
Harry claimed the article gave the misleading impression that he had cropped out the tether to create the false impression that he was a ‘superior wildlife photographer’, Ipso’s ruling states.
He said that the image was cropped due to the formatting requirements of the social media site, explaining that his Instagram was subject to bespoke settings such that the photographs he posts have a border around them and the picture of the elephant had to be cropped to fit this template -with the only alternative editing out the elephant handler.
The press regulator published their findings online, stating: ‘The Committee considered that it was not clear from the images themselves that the animals had been tranquilised and tethered.
‘The photograph of the elephant had been cropped to edit out the animal’s tethered leg; the publication had demonstrated that the photograph could have been edited differently and the complainant accepted that the album could have been uploaded in a different format which would have made editing the photograph unnecessary.
‘The accompanying caption did not make the position clear or that the images had previously been published, unedited, in 2016.
‘The position was not made clear simply as a result of the inclusion of the link to the website.
‘In these circumstances, 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.
‘There was no breach of Clause 1.’
Harry, pictured with Meghan, said the article was inaccurate because it implied he had deliberately misled the public through cropping
The ruling continues: ‘Where the article focused on the complainant’s publicly available Instagram posts and the information they displayed, the Committee did not consider that it was necessary for the newspaper to contact the complainant for comment on the published claims.
Harry’s wife, the Duchess of Sussex, is suing The Mail on Sunday after it published a private letter to her father, Thomas Markle, accusing the paper of misusing her private information, breaching copyright and selective editing.
The paper opposes the claims, pointing out the ‘huge and legitimate’ public interest in publishing the note.
After confirming Meghan’s legal case, Harry revealed he would be taking legal action against owners of the defunct News of the World, the Sun, and the Daily Mirror, over allegations of phone-hacking.