Wed - 13.12.2017

Arrests of Sun journalists spark anger in the UK press

Arrests of Sun journalists spark anger in the UK press

The arrests of five Sun journalists over alleged corrupt payments made to police and public officials have prompted angry responses from sections of the UK press and from the National Union of Journalists.

Sun deputy editor Geoff Webster, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, picture editor John Edwards and deputy news editor John Sturgis were arrested early on Saturday morning and later released on bail.

Trevor Kavanagh at The Sun condemned the arrests in an article today, beginning "The Sun is not a 'swamp' that needs draining". He protested that the paper's journalists are being "treated like members of an organised crime gang" who are "subjects of the biggest police operation in British criminal history".

Kavanagh characterises the ongoing police investigation as "out of proportion", and describes the alleged crimes of the journalists who were arrested as being nothing more than "to act as journalists have acted on all newspapers through the ages, unearthing stories that shape our lives, often obstructed by those who prefer to operate behind closed doors"

In a blog post titled "Sun veteran Kavanagh launches covert attack on Murdoch - in The Sun", Roy Greenslade at The Guardian points out some criticism of News Corp's management in Kavanagh's article. But a much more direct condemnation of News International comes from the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists Michelle Stanistreet, who condemns the arrests of as part of a "witch-hunt" being carried out against reporters.

Stanistreet is critical of the Management and Standards Committee, an independent body established by News Corp to take charge of all issues relating to phone hacking and other illegal activities at News International, which has been cooperating with police.

She accuses News International of a "monumental betrayal" of its reporters, stating, "the closure of the News of the World was a cynical act of damage limitation. The unprecedented decision to allow the Metropolitan Police to camp out at Wapping, and the sacrificing of journalists by the management's standards committee is an extension of this strategy."

The Telegraph has published an editorial joining the condemnation. "There are some countries where dawn raids by the police on the homes of journalists and the arrest of two dozen newspaper reporters and executives would be seen as a serious abuse of state power," the article begins.

Although the paper writes that investigations should be made into illegal activities like phone hacking, it suggests that, "the Metropolitan Police has arguably overstepped the mark".

"These inquiries should be drawn to a conclusion as speedily as possible. Open-ended investigations of alleged media misconduct would be intolerable in a free and democratic society," the Telegraph article concludes.

The Daily Mail also voices its disapproval, calling the presence of the MSC and the police in News Corp's headquarters in Wapping an "unprecedented set-up" that "has led to claims that media freedom is now in jeopardy".

By contrast, The Guardian, the paper that broke the story of the phone-hacking scandal, is supportive of the ongoing investigations, stating in an editorial today that, "there is no witch-hunt against tabloids, yet the rigorous inquiry into press standards is the only way to secure long-term freedom".

UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt fuelled the debate about the future of the UK press when he spoke on Andrew Marr show on Sunday. He stated on the program that "everyone recognises we don't want the state regulating content. We have one of the most lively presses in the world, they make life for me and my colleagues extremely uncomfortable and it is part of keeping us on the straight and narrow."

However, Hunt also said that the news industry had come "much closer to a consensus on the way forward than I would perhaps have predicted", noting that "everyone recognises" the need for a tougher, but still independent, regulator.

As these discussions continue, News Corp's wider position is far from certain. The Guardian writes today that it's becoming more and more likely that American authorities will launch a full investigation into the activities of News Corp under the foreign corrupt practices act, which prohibits American companies from paying bribes to foreign public officials. According to the paper, the threat of an FCPA prosecution "exposes the company to tens of millions of dollars in fines and the risk of imprisonment of its executive officers".

Rupert Murdoch is scheduled to visit London later this week. A News International memo to staff has promised that Murdoch has made a "total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper".

Sources: (1) (2) The Sun The Guardian (1) (2) (3) (4) National Union of Journalists, Press Gazette (1) (2) (3) The Telegraph, The Daily Mail


Hannah Vinter


2012-02-13 16:03

Shaping the Future of the News Publishing

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