The Sun was not acting in the public interest when it published embarrassing photographs of Prince Harry, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt says.
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, 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."
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.
In a Twitter exchange with former deputy prime minister John Prescott, Mr Murdoch denied taking the decision to print the photographs.
"Decision was rightly that of the editor, and I support. I was in Silicon Valley far removed," he wrote.