Sunday, 10 April 2011

Phone Hacking Scandal and Trelford

For an ex-editor of the Observer with a good reputation, Donald Trelford somewhat blotted his record with his observations on the phone hacking scandal back in February.
"It seems extraordinary that this story should remain so high on the news agenda. It was all a long time ago, two people have been to jail, the paper's editor has resigned twice from senior posts without any convincing evidence being produced against him, the Press Complaints Commission appears satisfied that newspapers now abide by data protection law, and police inquiries have resumed."
He turned his ire onto the Guardian for continuing to dig and ferret out the story when News Corp had done its best to bury it. He incredibly blamed the Guardian for bringing the press into disrepute. 'It's a case of dog eats dog gone barking mad'
Whoops. It is difficult to think of someone being so wrong, misguided and shallow. Recent developments show this story to be massive as Henry Porter spells out in the Observer.
“One of the most serious post-second world war scandals to affect British public life cannot be placed in quarantine and forgotten simply by means of a late apology and millions in damages. It is already clear that admissions made by News International raise huge questions about the competence and ethics of the company's management, including James Murdoch, as well as profound doubts about attempts to quash the police's inquiry into allegations of widespread criminality.

But much more important is that the News of the World operation has penetrated to the heart of the British government and may even have intercepted Gordon Brown's messages. We know that Labour's culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, who was the minister overseeing the media, was hacked, as was her husband David Mills; the former deputy prime minister, Lord Prescott, has been told that the News of the World was listening to his messages; and it seems likely that Tony Blair's communications director Alastair Campbell was also a victim.
Two weeks ago I wrote formally to the former prime minister Gordon Brown to ask if he had received confirmation from the police that his phone was compromised by the News of the World. He has yet to reply, but the very idea that a serving chancellor's phone was hacked by journalists is shocking, to say nothing of subsequent moves to dissuade him from speaking about it in public. That single aspect of the story tells you a lot about Murdoch's power and the fear he can instill in politicians. 

Never mind the footballers, TV presenters and film stars that Rupert Murdoch's people have been busily buying off or threatening since this scandal broke. There are hundreds of them, maybe even thousands, and they all have the right to a private life, but the gravity of this affair lies in this: at the same time as Murdoch's organisation was maintaining sway over the course of politics in this country, his journalists were listening to government ministers' private messages. It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous breach of trust by a public corporation, which of course may even have implications for national security. If the chancellor's phone was hacked, it certainly does.

Since the Guardian's Nick Davies began his investigations, it has become clear that News International would go to extraordinary lengths to suppress the story, including an attempt to derail further investigation by the police after royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glen Mulcaire had been jailed. There is in an ongoing dispute between the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, and the acting deputy commissioner, John Yates, about advice given by the Crown Prosecution Service to the police, but what must be clear is that the police investigation was stalled and somewhere along the line Murdoch's influence was felt.
This whole sorry affair seems to condemn modern journalistic practices, yet it offers hope, because without the persistence of the Observer's sister paper, the Guardian, and the resolve of a few victims such as Lord Prescott, very little of this story would have been made public.”
Henry Porter Observer online 9/4/11

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