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Prince Harry media complaint over ‘drugged and tethered’ animal photos dismissed

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, recently lost a breach of accuracy complaint against the Mail on Sunday.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, recently lost a breach of accuracy complaint against the Mail on Sunday. Getty Images

Prince Harry has lost a breach of accuracy complaint filed against British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, according to a ruling released by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

The complaint was filed on Aug. 8, 2019, but is not part of the other more widely reported lawsuits involving Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The Duke of Sussex complained to IPSO that the Mail had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article with the headline “Drugged and tethered… what Harry didn’t tell you about those awe-inspiring wildlife photos,” which was published on April 28, 2019.

READ MORE: The biggest lawsuits filed by the royal family — from planted cameras to leaked nudes

According to the IPSO ruling, the Mail’s article discussed photographs posted on Harry and Markle’s Instagram account, @sussexroyal, in celebration of Earth Day.

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The article claimed Harry “notably avoided explaining the circumstances in which the images were taken,” specifically that the animals pictured had been tranquillized and that the elephant in one image was tethered.

The IPSO ruling states the animals were sedated and tethered in order to be relocated as part of a conservation project.

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Today is #earthday – an opportunity to learn about, celebrate and continue to safeguard our planet, our home. The above, Their Royal Highnesses in Rotorua, New Zealand. Of the 170 different species originally planted in the early 1900’s, only a handful of species, including these majestic Redwoods, remain today. Next, we invite you to scroll through a series of 8 photos taken by The Duke of Sussex©️DOS sharing his environmental POV including: Africa’s Unicorn, the rhino. These magnificent animals have survived ice ages and giant crocodiles, amongst other things! They have adapted to earth’s changing climate continually for over 30 million years. Yet here we are in 2019 where their biggest threat is us. A critical ecosystem, Botswana’s Okavango Delta sustains millions of people and an abundance of wildlife. Huge bush fires, predominantly started by humans, are altering the entire river system; the ash kills the fish as the flood comes in and the trees that don’t burn become next year’s kindling. Desert lions are critically endangered due partly to human wildlife conflict, habitat encroachment and climate change. 96% of mammals on our 🌍 are either livestock or humans, meaning only 4% remaining are wild animals. Orca and Humpback whale populations are recovering in Norway thanks to the protection of their fisheries. Proof that fishing sustainably can benefit us all. Roughly 3/4 of Guyana is forested, its forests are highly diverse with 1,263 known species of wildlife and 6,409 species of plants. Many countries continue to try and deforest there for the global demand for timber. We all now know the damage plastics are causing to our oceans. Micro plastics are also ending up in our food source, creating not just environmental problems for our planet but medical problems for ourselves too. When a fenced area passes its carrying capacity for elephants, they start to encroach into farmland causing havoc for communities. Here @AfricanParksNetwork relocated 500 Elephants to another park within Malawi to reduce the pressure on human wildlife conflict and create more dispersed tourism. Every one of us can make a difference, not just today but every day. #earthday

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on

The Mail’s article also alleged the photos shared to the Instagram account were deceiving, saying viewers weren’t able to see the tethers on the elephant’s limbs.

According to IPSO, a spokesperson for Harry had declined to discuss the photos with the Mail, though “sources denied the rope was deliberately edited out of the elephant picture, claiming instead that ‘it was due to Instagram’s format.'”

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The Mail disputed this claim, saying the prince’s choice to put white borders around his photos was not required by Instagram but, rather, a preference of the royal.

Harry also claimed in his complaint that the article made it seem like he was sharing the photos to show his talent as a photographer and misleading the public by making it seem as though he had captured the shots in “dangerous circumstances.”

READ MORE: Meghan Markle, Prince Harry file lawsuit against U.K. tabloid

However, according to IPSO, the Mail denied any inaccuracy within the article, restating its claim that Harry misled his audience by not explaining the animals were drugged and tethered in the photos.

Furthermore, the Mail said his followers couldn’t have been expected to be aware of these circumstances, which Harry said had been explained in 2016.

In its ruling, IPSO determined that “it was not clear from the images themselves that the animals had been tranquilized and tethered” and that the Instagram caption had failed to make it clear the images had previously been published, unedited, three years ago.

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The organization concluded the article wasn’t inaccurate in claiming the photos were misleading and that the Mail couldn’t have been expected to contact Prince Harry prior to commenting on the images in question.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca