Newspaper Hacking Scandal in Britain Threat to Freedom

Posted on September 6, 2010

If you like questionably sourced “news” and sprinkled liberally with sensationalism then Britain’s News of the World should be in your Google reader.  A former employee of Rupert Murdoch’s rubbish rag now has a responsible post in government in an area from which he should be banned if the hacking stories are proved true. It has been alleged that Downing Street’s chief communications officer, Andy Coulson, encouraged reporters to illegally intercept messages from the cellphones of public figures when he was editor of The News of the World. [New York Times via Drudge Report]

London Metropolitan Police have also come under attack for apparent underperformance of their duties in the matter:

Lord Prescott, a Labour politician who was the deputy prime minister under Tony Blair and who has been named as one of hundreds of people whose phones may have been hacked, said the police had never provided him with a sufficient explanation of what happened.

“I have been far from satisfied with the Metropolitan Police’s procedure in dealing with my requests to uncover the truth about this case,” Lord Prescott told The Observer newspaper. It was only after “repeated requests,” he said, that he learned that he might have been a victim of phone hacking. If the police continued to fail to be forthcoming, he said, he would seek a judicial inquiry into their handling of the matter. [New York Times]

This Wednesday, the New York Times published an article recalling that

[i]n 2007, The News of the World’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, and an investigator employed by The News of the World, Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed after pleading guilty to having illegally intercepted voice mail messages of Prince William and Prince Harry and their chief royal aides.

Mr. Coulson, who was appointed editor of The News of the World in 2003, said that he had no knowledge of the hacking and that it was an isolated case, but resigned from the paper in January 2007 nonetheless.

The Times Magazine article provided new details, quoting a former reporter, Sean Hoare, and a unnamed former editor at The News of the World as saying that Mr. Coulson was fully aware of the hacking.

The persistent foot-dragging of Metropolitan Police, then and now, to fully investigate the matter was addressed by a Member of Parliament in a letter to Metro Police in terms that resound with the underlying issue that should be of concern to all of us who live in a free society:

“the historic continued and mishandling of this affair is beginning to bring your force, and hence our democracy, into disrepute.”

When government officials or the enforcers of that government’s authority are called into question about possible collusion with members of the press in such a matter, it is chilling. It is not just a matter of control, deceit, and criminality of press and public officials, but of misinformation being spread globally.  The press is supposed to guard the truth not dally with libel.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch* seems to exert an excessive amount of control throughout the world in countries where he has interests.  If his people are hacking the communication devices of governments and engaging in questionable under cover sting operations, then what information has he got to keep those governments under his control?

Rupert Murdoch’s unparalleled ability to corner the market on news outlets globally has always been questioned.  Procedural policies he tacitly condones at his papers not only lend credulity to the practice of  publishing “news” that cannot be properly sourced but to the practice of creating news rather than reporting it.


*Murdoch is reported to have encouraged Mazher Mahmood, under cover reporter for  News of the World, to  expose the Duchess of York in a sting.  See On My Watch here

©On My Watch…the writings of SamHenry.  Registration pending.