Fighting the ‘invincible’ beast

Murdoch’s News International has finally met it’s match.

One of myriad of papers Murdoch owns has, as would have been impossible to miss, been caught out.

Phone hacking; a crime which strikes at the core of personal freedom and civil liberties.

At best it is distasteful and illegal.

At worst it ignores any shred of morality and inflicts further pain on people in their darkest moments.

By the minute, new revelations of who may have been targeted by the News of the World’s private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, is being reported. This little black book, which is turning out to be not so little, has names and numbers of some incredible targets.

They range from celebrities and politicians to the moral-free zone of victims of serious crimes and friends and family of murder victims and soldiers.

For what? A quick and cheap story.

Who is to blame?

Well, understandably, the finger pointing has started. Andy Coulson, the ex-Deputy Editor who was hired as David Cameron’s communications chief, is in the firing line.

The then Editor of the News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, is also a suspect.

Perhaps we can remove her from this list as she has claimed she was on holiday and didn’t know that any of these methods were going on.

I don’t think so.

It is simply too unbelievable for me to believe that the editor of a newspaper, especially one which covers potentially risky stories and leads, does not question the sources or its legitimacy.

More worryingly has been the fact that successive governments, politicians and Prime Ministers have chosen to ignore the problem and hop into bed with the media.

Ministers were simply too scared to take on the beast. Too scared to question its role. They knew it could break them. It had become far too powerful.

But phone hacking is not a new phenomena. Indeed, there have been police enquiries about it before. They came back with very little stating that these cases were few and far between.

Well their definition of few and far between is significantly different to mine. Mulcaire’s contacts book has thousands of people’s names and phone numbers.

What has come to light is the fact that the police are implicated in the scandal themselves. Accepting payment for sensitive information and the such.

When Coulson and Brooks were questioned by the Select Committee they admitted to paying the police for information but maintained that only legal payments for information was undertaken.

Paying the police for information? Doesn’t anyone else call this corruption?

So caught up in the tangled web of lies and deceit are three vital institutions of our society: state, media and police.

As Alastair Campbell stated, it is a reflection of the world newspapers operate. The way people consume news has changed completely. Twitter, blogs and other social media has created a world where newspapers are not necessarily looked at first for information. As a result, they have sought riskier and riskier methods to create a story and sell.

Quite clearly at the expense of the law and human decency.

Rightly so, people are outraged.

Rallied behind Tom Watson MP (a minister under the Blair regime who stepped down citing the war in Iraq and was thus a target for the then Labour friend Brooks et al), the social media scene has changed the landscape.

This civil society, mobilised on Twitter, has voiced its concern at their favourite brands’ advertising association with the News of the World. As a result, they are dropping like flies from the Sunday edition hitting the bottom line of a precarious industry.

Do we want the private sector to be the de facto press regulators? I don’t think so. Is it right for people to voice their concerns at brands’ association? Probably.

And so today was the beginning of the end. Murdoch, in a shrewd business move, has decided to close down the News of the World in a simple rebranding exercise. He would rather shut down a paper rather than sacking Brooks.

The irony is that Sunday’s edition – the last – will surely be the biggest seller. Furthermore, the Twitter movement which had brought about the demise on moral grounds, has potentially facilitated the loss of many legitimate jobs.

It is only a question of time before we see The Sunday Sun.

Regardless, however, it is important to state that illegality within the press is not confined to News International. It has happened in a variety of publications.

So for Tom Watson MP and various others to get behind the idea and try to clean up what is becoming a dirtier and dirtier industry is vitally important.

Not only for the legitimacy of the press but also to ensure we can uphold an important right – freedom of speech.

I am proud of the MPs who have taken a stand and we should all recognise that this was not a risk-free strategy but something which needed to be done.

Take a bow, Tom Watson.


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