The announcement that Rupert Murdoch’s News International has agreed to pay-out to 37 victims of the News of the World phone hacking scandal (Hackgate) should come as no surprise. It only confirms what has been suspected all along - that Murdoch’s papers were up to no good.
The 37 who will receive payments include: the actor, Jude Law who will receive $201,000 (£130,000); Labour politician Lord Prescott $62,000 (£40,000): and former actress and designer Sadie Frost $77,000 (£50,000). The full total of settlements are likely to land the publisher with a bill around $2m. Small potatoes to Murdoch, yes, but the inference is damning.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Today’s allegation that senior management at News Group Newspapers (NGN), the subsidiary of News International that published the News of the World, took part in an orchestrated cover-up by “deliberately deceiving investigators and destroying evidence” is certain to bring criminal prosecutions against journalists and management. Moreover, the fact that NI lawyers did not contest this claim tells us everything.
James Murdoch has quit as director of The Sun and the London Times newspapers, the Evening Standard reports:
Companies House filings show James Murdoch has stepped down from the boards of both News Group Newspapers Limited, publisher of The Sun, and Times Newspapers Limited, which operates The Times and Sunday Times.
NGN used to operate the News of the World and remains embroiled in legal action over phone-hacking.
The departures come as James Murdoch also faces calls to quit as chairman of BSkyB at next week’s annual general meeting. His decision means no member of the Murdoch family now sits on the boards of the flagship UK papers.Rupert Murdoch used to be a director of NGN and TNL but stepped down after his son took over as NI executive chairman in 2007. James Murdoch has also quit at least one other subsidiary, News International Holdings.
Murdoch’s decision to quit is possibly one of damage limitation over the recent News of the World ‘phone hacking scandal.
The Evening Standard quotes Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, who said:
“Because it is inescapable that there will be some kind of censure from the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, it is inevitable that people will say maybe you’ve got too much on your plate, it makes sense to step back from some of the roles.” But Enders said Murdoch still faces intense pressure as the police investigate hacking at the News of the World.
“He can step down from all these positions but he won’t stop any of the other issues surrounding his stewardship,” she said.
Though Enders dismissed talk News Corp would sell the UK papers, Murdoch’s surprise resignation does suggest a shift in relationship between the parent company and the newspapers.
Tonight’s breaking news that James Murdoch had been arrested over the News of the World ‘phone hacking scandal, has proved too good to be true. Sky News tweeted Mr. Murdoch had been arrested at 22:00 hours GMT and taken to London’s Paddington Green Police Station for questioning. Shortly afterwards, the tweet was deleted.
The question is: Was Sky News hacked? Or, was it a case of wishful thinking from a journalist?
The Guardian reports the Police have found evidence that Sara Payne, whose 8-year-old daughter was abducted and murdered in 2000, was a target of News of the World‘s investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who specialised in hacking voicemail.
Police had earlier told her correctly that her name was not among those recorded in Mulcaire’s notes, but on Tuesday officers from Operation Weeting told her they had found her personal details among the investigator’s notes. These had previously been thought to refer to a different target.
Friends of Sara Payne have told the Guardian that she is “absolutely devastated and deeply disappointed” at the disclosure. Her cause had been championed by the News of the World, and in particular by its former editor, Rebekah Brooks. Believing that she had not been a target for hacking, Payne wrote a farewell column for the paper’s final edition on 10 July, referring to its staff as “my good and trusted friends”.
The evidence that police have found in Mulcaire’s notes is believed to relate to a phone given to Sara Payne by Rebekah Brooks as a gift to help her stay in touch with her supporters
One of Payne’s close colleagues said: “We are all appalled and disgusted. Sara is in bits about it.”
If this is true then it’s game over for Rebekah Brooks, and one can only surmise a criminal prosecution
It was a splatter of foam pie rather than any humble pie that Rupert Murdoch received today. It added a surreal touch to an odd day for the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Hearing, where Rupert Murdoch at first came across as a seemingly frail Wizard of Oz. It was only his hand slamming the table in front of him that gave any hint this is a man used to getting his own way; a man who is rarely questioned, let alone cross examined by a round table of MPs, who were, let’s be fair, rather ineffectual.
Rupert was humbly evasive, while is son, James easily deflected questions, though he did admit the rather shocking news News International has been (and may still be) paying the legal fees of the phone hacking journalist Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire.
Then came the pie master, an alleged comedian called Johnnie Marbles, who may have delivered a better hit than any member of the Select Committee, but in doing so took away from the serious intent of the proceedings.
Sean Hoare, the News of the World phone-hacking whistleblower has been found dead at his home in Watford, the Guardian reports:
Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbiz reporter who was the first named journalist to allege Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead, the Guardian has learned.
Hoare, who worked on the Sun and the News of the World with Coulson before being dismissed for drink and drugs problems, is said to have been found dead at his Watford home.
Hertfordshire police would not confirm his identity, but the force said in a statement: “At 10.40am today [Monday 18 July] police were called to Langley Road, Watford, following the concerns for the welfare of a man who lives at an address on the street. Upon police and ambulance arrival at a property, the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.
“The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing.”
Hoare first made his claims in a New York Times investigation into the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World.
He told the newspaper that not only did Coulson know of the phone hacking, but that he actively encouraged his staff to intercept the phone calls of celebrities in the pursuit of exclusives.
In a subsequent interview with the BBC he alleged that he was personally asked by his then-editor, Coulson, to tap into phones. In an interview with the PM programme he said Coulson’s insistence that he didn’t know about the practice was “a lie, it is simply a lie”.
Earlier this year, Sean Hoare contributed to a BBC documentary, “Tabloid Hacks Exposed”, which examined the extent of illegal activity perpetrated by News International employees when obtaining a story, particularly the interception of computer email communications and phone hacking.
“Tabloid Hacks Exposed” was made for the BBC’s Panorama strand, and was first broadcast in March 2011, and is essential viewing.
Phone hacking was once dismissed by executives at News International as the illegal work of “one rogue reporter”. The defence collapsed with one journalist at the News of the World being sacked and the original police inquiry having to be re-opened.
Panorama exposes the full extent of the “dark arts” employed by journalists across the industry to get their story. The programme reveals a dishonourable history of law breaking that went beyond phone hacking and questions the police inaction that let it continue.
The demise of the News of the World, the paper at the center of the UK’s ‘phone hacking scandal, has less to do with guilt, remorse or even people power, and everything to do Rupert Murdoch’s desire for power - no matter the cost.
Tonight Murdoch’s son, James announced the end of the 168-year-old tabloid, claiming it had been “sullied by behaviour that was wrong” and that “wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad”.
He went on to say:
“Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company.
“The News Of The World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.”
James Murdoch also echoed his father in giving his full support to the former NOTW editor, Rebekah Brooks, saying:
“She has a good standard of ethics and her leadership is the right thing for the company.”
Brooks was editor at the time when it is alleged a private detective, employed by the paper, hacked into the voice mail messages of the murdered teenager, Milly Dowler.
Brooks stated earlier this week that it was
“inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations.”
In light of this week’s revelations, what is truly inconceivable is the fact Brooks has not either
b) been sacked.
If she did not know that a private detective had been employed to hack ‘phones, then she failed in her role as editor, and should be sacked.
If she did know about it, then she should resign.
Whichever way you look at it, Brooks has to go.
Instead the Murdochs have pulled together and sacrificed a best-selling tabloid to defend Ms. Brooks.
The question is: Why?
Tonight, it was also announced that another former editor, Andy Coulson, who resigned in 2007 over the NOTW ‘phone-hacking, will be arrested by the police tomorrow.
Why protect Brooks and not Coulson?
What is disturbing about the whole NOTW ‘phone hacking scandal is the glimpse it gives of Rupert Murdoch’s power.
Since the days of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, politicians have courted Murdoch as an ally to win power.
Tony Blair met with him regularly and was a guest at a major News International party in Australia prior to Labour’s victorious election in 1997. Gordon Brown went on pilgrimage once a year to Sun Valley, to court Murdoch. Now David Cameron continues this tradition of fore-lock tugging.
It is a criminal offense to pay the British Police for information.
When questioned at a Select Committee hearing in March 2003, Brooks admitted to paying police for information.
“We have paid the police for information in the past.”
When asked if she would do so in the future, she replied:
Rebekah Brooks admits paying the police for information - a criminal offense - in March 2003
If it was known back in 2003 that Brooks and the News of the World had committed a criminal offense then why wasn’t she prosecuted?
Are Britain’s politicians too frightened, too cowed, by Murdoch and his tabloid press? And if they are, why? What imaginary power does he hold over them?
And what power does Rebekah Brooks hold over Rupert Murdoch?
The question is: Who benefits by Murdoch sacrificing the News of the World? Does it make easier for Murdoch to now own BSkyB? Does it mean News International won’t have to pay out large sums to victims of ‘phone-hacking if there is no longer a News of the World?
What David Cameron must do now is initiate a judge led enquiry in to the News of the World, Brooks, Coulson and Murdoch, as the police, in light of their involvement, cannot be trusted to investigate this thoroughly.
Cameron also has to stop Murdoch’s plans to take over BSkyB.
Both are a small step towards severing Murdoch’s influence over parliament.
To stop Murdoch’s plans to take over BSkyB sign the petition here.