The Sun was not acting in the public interest when it published embarrassing photographs of Prince Harry, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said today.
The minister said “personally” he could not see a justification for printing the controversial images.
But he insisted that newspaper editors had to be free to make decisions on such issues.
The comments came as Rupert Murdoch defended The Sun’s move, posting on Twitter: “Needed to demonstrate no such thing as free press in the UK. Internet makes mockery of these issues.”
The News Corporation boss also urged people to give Harry “a break”. “He may be on the public payroll one way or another, but the public loves him, even to enjoy Las Vegas,” Mr Murdoch wrote.
Speaking to BBC News this morning, Mr Hunt said: “Personally I cannot see what the public interest was in publishing those.
“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.
“I just hope that people won’t remember this, but they will remember the amazing good work that Prince Harry has done.”
Mr Hunt added: “We can agree with what someone like Mr Murdoch does or you can disagree with it.
“But in the end that is not for politicians to tell editors what to publish…
“As I understand it even Buckingham Palace have said that editors have a right to publish what they want to and that is a matter for editors.”
The Sun argued that printing the images was in the public interest and a “crucial” test of the country’s free press.
It has been reported that Mr Murdoch also wanted to fire a warning shot at Lord Justice Leveson, the man leading the inquiry into press standards in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. News International has refused to comment on the speculation.
But Mr Hunt said: “Nothing that Lord Justice Leveson is going to come back with is going to threaten or undermine the functioning of a free press.”