The Duke of Sussex has been handed a defeat in his war against the British tabloids.
On Thursday, the Independent Press Standards Organization announced its ruling on Prince Harry’s formal complaint against the Mail on Sunday over its April 2019 article titled, “Drugged and tethered… what Harry didn’t tell you about those awe-inspiring wildlife photos.”
The IPSO ruled that the complaint, filed in August 2019, which related to the body’s code on accuracy in reporting, would not be upheld after finding “no breach.”
Harry had taken issue with claims in the article, which featured Earth Day images taken from his Instagram account, that the “pictures… don’t quite tell the full story.”
The article alleged that the animals in the photos had been tranquilized and that an elephant had been tethered, with the photos not showing the rope attached to its hind legs.
Another version of the article appeared with the headline, “Drugged and tethered… what Prince Harry didn’t tell you about those awe-inspiring wildlife photos in Malawi.”
Harry’s complaint rested on the assertion that the Mail on Sunday intentionally misled the public, giving the impression that the duke’s posts were meant to portray him as a “superior wildlife photographer” and that the photos had been captured in the wild.
He noted that the images were simply meant to raise awareness for Earth Day, and that the posts noted the animals were being relocated as a part of local conservation work, adding that as such it was not necessary to state that the animals had been sedated or tethered as it was implied by the context.
The duke also presented the fact that the original, uncropped version of the elephant photograph had been published on the website for the Royal Family in 2016, where it has been available ever since.
The same photo was also published on the website of the conservation organization, along with a video documenting the tranquilization process.
After investigating the complaint, the IPSO committee found that, due to the ambiguity of Harry’s posts, “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.
Additionally, “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. Nevertheless, the publication had included the complainant’s denial that he had deliberately edited out the tether on the image of the elephant. There was no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information.”
Supporters of Prince Harry on Twitter were quick to dismiss the ruling, citing the fact that the IPSO is funded by member U.K. newspapers and magazines.
In October, Harry launched a lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday and its parent company over the misuse of private information and more, followed by further suits against two other British tabloids over alleged phone hacking.