Prince Harry has lost a complaint against the Mail on Sunday over a story suggesting he had intentionally misled his Instagram followers by not making clear the animals in his photos were tranquilised and tied up.
He objected to the implication he did so to “give the impression that he was a superior wildlife photographer”, according to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
The Duke of Sussex posted a series of his own wildlife photos on his official Instagram on Earth Day in April last year, including an elephant, rhino and lion.
The Mail on Sunday article, which was also published online, claimed the pictures “don’t quite tell the full story” and that Harry had “notably avoided explaining the circumstances in which the images were taken”.
It reported that both the rhino and lion had been tranquilised and that the elephant’s back legs, which are cropped out of the photo, had been tied together with rope so the animal could be moved to a different park.
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The story was accompanied by a photo showing the scene from another angle, revealing that the elephant’s legs were tethered.
The Mail reported that a spokesperson for Harry had declined to discuss the photos but that “sources denied the rope was deliberately edited out of the elephant picture, claiming instead that ‘it was due to Instagram’s format’”.
The duke told IPSO the implication he had “intentionally misled the public to give the impression that he was a superior wildlife photographer who had captured the images in dangerous circumstances” was inaccurate.
He said the images had been uploaded to his account to raise awareness of Earth Day, not to show off his photography skills, and that “the caption made clear that the animals were being relocated as part of conservation efforts”.
The duke added that it was therefore “not necessary for the captions to explicitly state that the animals had been sedated or tethered as this would be understood by readers”.
Harry also argued 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”.
The story had opened: “Judging by his spectacular photographs of African wildlife, the Duke of Sussex is something of a natural behind the lens.”
But Harry said the image was cropped due to Instagram’s formatting requirements meaning every photo in an album post has to have the same format, in this case a square shape.
In response, the Mail on Sunday told IPSO Harry had posted the cropped photo to his 5.6m Instagram followers without explaining the circumstances behind it, despite having the opportunity to do so.
It said his followers could not be expected to remember what he had said publicly about the conservation work three years earlier or on the conservation organisation’s website, as Harry had argued in his complaint.
The newspaper called Harry “disingenuous” for arguing that his preference to have a border around his photos was an Instagram formatting requirement rather than his own “presentational choice”.
It uploaded the full image to Instagram itself and provided a screenshot to IPSO to prove its point.
IPSO did not uphold Harry’s complaint under Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice as it found it was “not clear from the images themselves that the animals had been tranquilised and tethered”.
IPSO said: “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.”
Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle is currently suing Mail on Sunday and its publisher Associated Newspapers over the “intrusive and unlawful publication of a private letter” she wrote to her father.
Picture: Reuters/Pool/Chris Jackson