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 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
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
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