When Prince Harry last went to Afghanistan, five years ago, the British media maintained a strict media blackout – only for the American Drudge Report website to reveal his presence on the front line.
For this latest 20-week tour of duty, the Ministry of Defence took a different approach, allowing him to be interviewed by an embedded print journalist and a single broadcast crew, first in October and then in December. Possibly thanks to the Leveson Inquiry (which reported during the Prince's deployment) the embargo held firm, though with one notable exception. Two days before Christmas, The Sun – the same paper that pictured Harry nude on its front page in August – tried to win back his approval with a splash story: "Harry kills Taliban chief."
The "world exclusive" was based on a military broadcast, overheard on patrol in Afghanistan. "We heard this posh voice come over the radio and knew it was Big H," said The Sun's source. "The Apache then let off some Hellfire missiles and its 30mm cannon and 'boom'. It was Big H all the way."
Although the Prince did concede in his latest embedded interview that he has taken enemy fighters "out of the game", The Sun's story was the result of mistaken identity and untrue.
It is a reason why, no matter how successful this media operation was, Prince Harry will remain deeply suspicious of the tabloid journalists who earned his lasting contempt by their treatment of his mother. "It's fairly obvious how far back it goes. It's when I was very small," he said.
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