A Sacrificial Lamb #notw

The News of the World is closing down (hooray?)

It looks to me like an attempt to provide a sop to the masses, to remove a tainted brand. But there are several reasons why this should not be the end of the story.

Firstly, there are people who were involved and knew (or should have known if they were anywhere near competent) who are still working in News International and at other places.

Secondly it’s more than just listening to voicemails now. It seems to involve the systematic corruption of police officers, first to obtain information to assist in hacking, and secondly to help cover up the extent of the problem. It involves a company trying to bury the truth and pretending that they know nothing, while threatening and bullying real investigative journalists and politicians or anyone else who questions them. It involves a regulator, a police force and parliamentary committees and senior politicians content to accept ‘assurances’ even as evidence mounts up and becomes more and more clear.

Thirdly, News of the World and News International are far from the only ones to have been suspected of illegal story-gathering. The private investigators that the NotW use and the Sun use are often the same ones that other newspapers use. Journalists move around from paper to paper on the backs of their reputations – which are based on their ‘scoops’ as much as anything. I can’t believe that there won’t be other tabloids dragged in. The Sun is a definite candidate, as are the Mail, the Mirror, the Express and the Star.

Fourthly, this leads to major questions about the suitability of those connected to News International to run any media outlet, let alone one as influential and market-dominating as BSkyB

Fifthly, while Cameron can’t be blamed any more than any other politician for sucking up to the press and the Murdoch press in particular, and while he may be able to claim he didn’t know what was going on when he first hired Coulson in 2007, after 2009 there were many more things coming out and there are claims that after the 2010 General Election specific issues were raised with Cameron concerning Coulson and illegal acts and the PM still appointed him to a position at No10 – paid for by the tax-payer.

I never bought the News of the World, and so cannot do more than I usually do to boycott it this weekend. I hope as many people as possible leave it alone. Rather than buy it so some money goes to ‘good causes’ we should leave it to rot and give a bit to a charity this weekend.

And then seriously consider whether we want to encourage the other tabloids ever again by buying them when they continue to lead with splashes about the private lives of minor celebrities, or the minutiae of horrific crimes.

Yes, it is worse

Since I wrote my last post, it’s been alleged that families of the 7th July bombing victims and families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan were targeted by News of the World.

And that despite having known about payments to ‘a small number’ of police officers at the Met, the Met are still in charge of the overall investigation. The original investigation (which resulted in convictions but only concerned hacking of phones linked to royalty) did have access to a huge amount of information from Glenn Mulcaire, which it has since transpired could easily have identified many other potential victims. There are real questions as to whether there are police officers who didn’t just turn a blind eye in order to maintain an easy relationship with the media, but have been corrupted into helping cover up crimes.

Quite a few of the private investigators used by the media are themselves ex-police, and so would have friends in the force. But it’s those very PIs who were having to commit the actual acts of hacking and bribery etc to obtain information, paid for by reporters. I don’t believe that the News of the World is the only paper that has been involved in this – the Daily Mail has recorded a lot of payments to PIs over the period that these actions took place, including to some of the same individuals.

Former coppers who are commiting crimes? Active coppers who are taking money? Senior officers who deny that evidence exists when it’s been sitting around at Scotland Yard for five years?

Dixon of Dock Green had it right: “There’s nothing worse than a bent copper”.

Can the Sun/News of the World get any worse?

Now, I’ve never been a particular lover of the Sun or the News of the World. My dad was on the periphery of the Wapping dispute. I watched the Hillsborough disaster unfold live on TV and then a few days later was delivering the Sun as it published utter lies about the event. I think that Rupert Murdoch’s influence on the media is malignant and corrupting the world over.

But even today the torrent of stories about phone hacking and other nasty behaviour have been shocking. Read the rest of this entry »

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