BBC apologises to Duke of Sussex for showing image branding him ‘race traitor’

The BBC has apologised for failing to warn the Duke of Sussex that it would be broadcasting and publishing online an image of him in which he was branded "a race traitor", which was shared on a neo-Nazi social media group.

The image showed Harry with a pistol to his head against a blood-spattered background and also featured a blood-smeared swastika.

It was shared on a far-right social media platform in August last year, just a few months after the duke married mixed race former actress Meghan Markle.

Michal Szewczuk
Michal Szewczuk, was detained after he branded the Duke of Sussex a race traitor in an 'abhorrent' online post (West Yorkshire Police)

The BBC featured the image in a broadcast and on its website, which subsequently led to the prosecution of two far-right teenagers.

Watchdog Ofcom rejected a complaint from Harry about the use of the image, but has offered an apology to the senior royal.

A BBC source said: "This was an important piece of journalism which led to the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of two members of a neo-Nazi group.

"The image of The Duke of Sussex was included to show the abhorrent nature of their behaviour and Ofcom has subsequently concluded that there was a clear editorial rationale for using the image which, in the context of the news report, was considered unlikely to incite crime.

"Naturally we regret the distress caused and we apologised for failing to warn Kensington Palace in advance that it was to be published."

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Prince Harry arrives at the ADAM Tower, in Amsterdam, on September 3, 2019, for the introduction of a project and global partnership between Booking.com, SkyScanner, CTrip, TripAdvisor and Visa, an initiative led by the Duke of Sussex to change the travel industry to better protect tourist destinations and communities that depend on it. (Photo by Frank van Beek / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read FRANK VAN BEEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Sander Groet (right), a partner at the A'DAM Tower in Amsterdam greets the Duke of Sussex as he arrives for the launch of a new travel industry partnership. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prince Harry Breaks His Silence on Private Jet Controversy: 'We Can All Do Better, No One Is Perfect'
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 03: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex announces a partnership between Booking.com, SkyScanner, CTrip, TripAdvisor and Visa called 'Travalyst' at A'dam Tower on September 03, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The initiative is to help transform the travel industry to better protect tourist destinations. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 03: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex announces a partnership between Booking.com, SkyScanner, CTrip, TripAdvisor and Visa called 'Travalyst' at A'dam Tower on September 03, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The initiative is to help transform the travel industry to better protect tourist destinations. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The Duke of Sussex at the A'DAM Tower in Amsterdam during the launch of a new travel industry partnership. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 03: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex announces a partnership between Booking.com, SkyScanner, CTrip, TripAdvisor and Visa called 'Travalyst' at A'dam Tower on September 03, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The initiative is to help transform the travel industry to better protect tourist destinations. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The Duke of Sussex meets children at Sheffield Children's Hospital in Clarkson Street, Sheffield, where he will officially open the new wing.
The Duke of Sussex arrives at Sheffield Children???s Hospital in Clarkson Street, Sheffield, where he will officially open the new wing.
The Duke of Sussex during his visit to Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, to learn about their commitment to applied learning in teaching and research.
The Duke of Sussex during his visit to Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, to learn about their commitment to applied learning in teaching and research.
The Duke of Sussex during his visit to Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, to learn about their commitment to applied learning in teaching and research.
The Duke of Sussex plays with one year old Noah Nicholson during his visit to Sheffield Children's Hospital in Clarkson Street, Sheffield, where he officially opened the new wing.
The Duke of Sussex arrives at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, Sheffield, where he will watch powerlifting competitors during the Invictus UK Trials.
The Duke of Sussex plays with one year old Noah Nicholson during his visit to Sheffield Children's Hospital in Clarkson Street, Sheffield, where he officially opened the new wing.
The Duke of Sussex plays with one year old Noah Nicholson during his visit to Sheffield Children's Hospital in Clarkson Street, Sheffield, where he officially opened the new wing.
The Duke of Sussex meets the hospital's mascot, Theo the bear, during his visit to Sheffield Children's Hospital in Clarkson Street, Sheffield, where he officially opened the new wing.
The Duke of Sussex arriving at the Invictus UK Trials Sheffield 2019, English Institute of Sport, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
The Duke of Sussex leaves the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, Sheffield, where met competitors during the Invictus UK Trials.
The Duke of Sussex arriving at the Invictus UK Trials Sheffield 2019, English Institute of Sport, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
The Duke of Sussex watches powerlifters compete during a visit to the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, Sheffield, where he will watch Powerlifting competitors during the Invictus UK Trials.
The Duke of Sussex leaves the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, Sheffield, where met competitors during the Invictus UK Trials.
The Duke of Sussex leaves the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, Sheffield, where met competitors during the Invictus UK Trials.
The Duke of Sussex meets Invictus Team UK players and their families during a visit to the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, Sheffield, where he will watch Powerlifting competitors during the Invictus UK Trials.
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 03: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex announces a partnership between Booking.com, SkyScanner, CTrip, TripAdvisor and Visa called 'Travalyst' at A'dam Tower on September 03, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The initiative is to help transform the travel industry to better protect tourist destinations. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The Duke of Sussex arriving at the A'DAM Tower in Amsterdam at the launch of a new travel industry partnership. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
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After the report, university student Michal Szewczuk, of Wyther Park in Bramley, Leeds – who created the image which included the phrase "See Ya Later Race Traitor", was ordered to be detained in a young offenders' institution after pleading guilty to two counts of encouraging terrorism and five counts of possession of terrorist material, including the White Resistance Manual and the Al Qaeda Trading Manual.

Szewczuk, 19, was sentenced at the Old Bailey alongside 18-year-old Oskar Dunn-Koczorowski, from St Albans Avenue in west London, who had admitted two counts of encouraging terrorism.

Rejecting the complaint in July, Ofcom said showing the image was editorially justified.

The judgment said: "When broadcasting or publishing examples of racist propaganda in content with a clear public interest, there are nevertheless limits on the type of material which can be included, taking into account generally accepted standards in particular.

"The BBC demonstrated in this case that it made a finely balanced decision on the necessary editorial justification to include the image and removed it from the article two days after publication when it considered that the public interest in the story had reduced."

A spokeswoman for Harry said he welcomes the letter of apology from the BBC, but added: "His Royal Highness maintains that instead of reproducing the image and giving a platform to something that would have only been seen by a few, it should have just been described so that others would not potentially be influenced by such an inflammatory image."

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