Murdoch wracked by 13 probes into UK phone-hacking
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Last Updated: Friday, January 20, 2012, 23:27
London: At least 13 inquiries and legal cases are being conducted into questions raised by the unethical practice of phone-hacking at the now defunct News of the World, with media baron Rupert Murdoch's empire in the UK coming under unprecedented scrutiny.

The inquiries are being conducted at various levels, with some going into issues wider than phone-hacking and other unethical news gathering practices in British journalism.

The issue, which blew up last summer, has equally affected the press, police and politics. It has already led to Murdoch withdrawing his bid to takeover BSkyB, besides other changes in his media empire in the UK.

The Justice Leveson Inquiry is being held in two parts. The first focuses on "the culture, practices and ethics" of the UK media.

It is looking at relationships between newspapers, broadcasters, social media networks, politicians and the police as well as media regulation.

The second part of the Leveson Inquiry will focus on the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International (NI) and other newspaper groups.

It will also look at the original police investigation into phone hacking, known as Operation Glade, and consider whether there were management failures at NI.

Rupert Murdoch, his son James, and top executives of News International have appeared before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in widely watched television depositions.

James Murcoh appeared before it twice, on 19 July and 10 December. The committee is expected to submit its report in the near future.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into phone hacking last year following new claims that the News of the World intercepted messages of public figures.

In a report in July 2011, it said it "deplores" News International's attempt to "deliberately thwart" the original investigation into phone hacking in 2005-06 but also states that the police set aside a huge amount of material that could have identified other perpetrators and victims.

Elizabeth Filkin, former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, who was asked to "examine the ethical considerations that should, in future, underpin the relationships between the Metropolitan Police and the media", concluded that the "close relationship" between Scotland Yard and the news media had caused "serious harm".

Filkin said there were "some very serious issues" relating to contact between journalists and police which had "eroded trust from the public".

She told police officers to "watch out" for "late-night carousing" with journalists, and flirting.

Bruised by allegations of proximity to Murdoch, Prime Minister David Cameron declared his meetings with Murdoch and his representatives, and asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell to ensure that senior civil servants regulate and record contacts with the press.

Now all ministers have to record and declare whenever they meet an editor.

Scotland Yard is conducting three inquiries: Operation Weeting (into phone-hacking at News of the World, under which many have been arrested), Operation Elveden (looking at emails received from NI that allegedly show payments made to the police by News of the World), and Operation Tuleta (investigating allegations that computers were hacked to obtain private information).

In the US, the FBI has launched an investigation into allegations that News Corp journalists sought to hack into the phones of the victims of the September 11 terror attacks and actor Jude Law while he was visiting New York.

There are also calls for a US investigation into alleged payments to UK police, which could expose News Corp to charges under US anti-corruption laws.

Murdoch's company is also facing a series of lawsuits. Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck is alleging unfair dismissal for whistleblowing, while NI has made several out-of-court settlements with individuals whose phones were hacked.

Scotland Yard says the number of victims is 742. News Corporation is also being sued by a group of shareholders who allege a failure of corporate governance arising out of the phone-hacking controversy.

The legal action was filed in the US and is an updated version of a previous action, amended to include claims relating to the hacking scandal.


First Published: Friday, January 20, 2012, 23:27

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