LONDON - News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has taken to Twitter to defend the publication of the photos of a naked Prince Harry in his conglomerate's U.K. tabloid The Sun.
"Needed to demonstrate no such thing as free press in UK," Murdoch tweeted in response to some positive comments on the tabloid's decision. "Internet makes mockery of these issues. 1st amendment please."
He later also tweeted: "Simple equation: free, open uncontrollable Internet versus shackled newspapers equals no newspapers."
In its Friday edition, The Sun, part of Murdoch's News International U.K. publishing arm, printed the grainy cell phone photos that showed the royal without clothes during a Las Vegas party weekend.
Liz Murdoch, the daughter of the News Corp. boss and the chairman of the conglomerate's TV production firm Shine Group, had on Friday also argued that a "public interest argument" can be made for the publication of the photos.
Rupert Murdoch later on Sunday also said he did not make the decision about the publication of the photos amid suggestions in U.K. media that he had pushed for it. Instead, the Sun's editor made the decision, but Murdoch said he supports it. "Decision as rightly that of the editor, and I support," Murdoch tweeted. "I was in Silicon Valley far removed."
Meanwhile, on Sunday, British Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt came out and publicly questioned The Sun's decision and said the government believes in a free press. Critics had said Hunt was too friendly towards Murdoch and News Corp. during the regulatory review of the conglomerate's bid to take full control of BSkyB last year that was later cancelled amid the phone hacking scandal.
"Personally, I cannot see what the public interest was in publishing those" photos of Prince Harry, Hunt told BBC News. "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."
Added Hunt: "I just hope that people won't remember this, but they will remember the amazing good work that Prince Harry has done."
More than 850 complaints had been made to press watchdog the Press Complaints Commission about The Sun's publication of the photos as of Sunday, according to reports. But some argued Sunday that The Sun also wanted to signal defiance amid a threat of possible regulation following the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics.
Murdoch over the weekend also called on people via Twitter to give Prince Harry "a break." Added Murdoch: "The public loves him, even to enjoy Las Vegas."