LONDON (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch said Britain's Prince Harry should be given a break, days after his Sun tabloid added to the 27-year-old's embarrassment by printing pictures of him cavorting naked in Las Vegas, in defiance of appeals from Royal lawyers.
"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," the media mogul said on Twitter.
The Sun, which is part of Murdoch's News Corp empire, broke ranks with the rest of Britain's press by publishing the grainy pictures on Friday.
It justified its move by saying that, with the pictures freely available on the Internet, the issue had become one of "the freedom of the press".
Murdoch defended the decision. "Needed to demonstrate no such thing as free press in UK. Internet makes mockery of these issues. 1st amendment please," he tweeted, referring to the right to freedom of speech set out in the U.S. Constitution.
Jeremy Hunt, Britain's minister for culture, media and sport, told BBC News that he did not think the publication of the photos was in the public interest, but ultimately it was a decision for editors.
"Personally I cannot see what the public interest was in publishing those (pictures)," he said on Sunday.
"But we have a free press and I don't think it is right for politicians to tell newspaper editors what they can and cannot publish. That must be a matter for the newspaper editors."
The Independent newspaper said on Sunday that Rupert Murdoch ordered the Sun to publish because he wanted to send a warning shot to Lord Justice Leveson, the judge leading an inquiry into media standards in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World tabloid.
News International, News Corp's British newspapers arm, was not immediately available to comment on the Independent report.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Louise Ireland)