Murdoch took decision to run Harry pics, despite Leveson

Media baron intervened personally, telling Sun to publish naked shots of prince in Las Vegas

LAST UPDATED AT 11:04 ON Sun 26 Aug 2012

RUPERT MURDOCH was directly responsible for The Sun's decision to break ranks with the rest of the UK press and publish pictures of Prince Harry partying naked in his hotel room, the Independent on Sunday claims.

News International has refused to give any details of the decision-making process behind Friday's volteface decision to splash the naked Prince across the front page of the tabloid, but according to a "well-placed source", says the IoS, the order came from Murdoch.

The paper says the 81-year-old media baron phoned Tom Mockridge, head of News International, from New York on Thursday at a time when the papers were afraid to publish the photos after a request not to from St James's Palace, for fear of reprisal from Lord Leveson's inquiry into media ethics and regulation.

Murdoch supposedly told Mockridge: "There is a principle here. I know this is about Leveson but this is humiliating. We can't carry on like this. We should run them, do it and say to Leveson, we are doing it for press freedom."

Former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie supported the IoS's claims, telling the BBC last night that he did not believe the decision to publish would have been made without Murdoch's consent.

The Sun's front cover, which made the point that the pictures were already freely available online with the joking tag 'souvenir print edition', has prompted more than 850 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission - though there has not yet been an official one on behalf of the prince.

The tabloid has been both praised and condemned by MPs, peers and other commentators for its decision. Some media analysts believe the publication could lead to the Leveson inquiry recommending stricter curbs on press freedom when Lord Leveson makes his final report.

Former News of the World editor Neil Wallis told the IoS: "This was a decision taken by Rupert. Rupert cares passionately about newspapers. He thinks this stuff is important… They have stood up and looked the rest of the media in the eye, Parliament in the eye, and looked Leveson in the eye."

Last night, Murdoch took to Twitter to give his views on the prince's behaviour, which were supportive despite his decision to publish the pictures.

He wrote: "Prince Harry. Give him a break. He may be on the public payroll one way or another, but the public loves him, even to enjoy Las Vegas."

Harry was said by the Daily Mail yesterday to have been summoned for "crisis talks" with his father. · 

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