Prince Harry’s latest drunken escapade is now laid out for hundreds of millions to see in all of his naked glory . . . except for people in England. The Royal family moved quickly to effectively bar British newspapers from publishing the photos under the English libel laws, which I have criticized in the past as both draconian and restrictive of free speech. Now the Sun is bucking the effective order from the palace and now running the photos. In the meantime, millions of Brits were able to see the photos barred in newspapers but simply turning on their computers.
‘Prince Harry Naked’ has been googled over 70 million times – pictures showing the prince holding the royal jewels and cavorting with an equally naked woman in a game of strip pool.
The naughty moments of royals hold little fascination with me — even less than do royals generally. However, the English continue to impose highly restrictive rules on the media. First there is the Official Secrets law that is absurdly broad and effectively makes journalist freedoms discretionary in areas touching on the governmental interests. Then there is a host of laws allowing exceptionally broad prior restraint rules and blasphemy and hate crime prosecutions. However, it is the libel law that probably has the greatest chilling effect — extremely pro-plaintiff rules that threaten to ruin both individuals and media outlets with both damages and the English rule compelling the payment of the opposing party’s legal fees and costs.
The pictures from Harry’s wild ride in Las Vegas are the latest example of how the libel laws are used by the wealthy to limit the press and bar information to the public. Here you have a randy, juvenile prince infamous for public acts of embarrassing debauchery. Yet, the palace insists that disclosure of photos taken at a large party are private matters for the prince.
Once again, the Internet shows how government limitations can be circumvented by the Internet — an ironic timing since the government is still surrounding the embassy with Julian Assange inside to arrest him and extradite him in a case that is widely viewed as retaliation for his disclosing claimed classified information.
England is now ground zero for the threat to free speech in the West from ever-widening blasphemy prosecutions to hate speech laws to libel actions. Perhaps the absurdities of the most recent limitations will trigger a reexamination of these law by our English cousins.
Source: Daily Mail