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Murdochs, Brooks face questioning by lawmakers

News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and his son James face questions from Parliament Tuesday in a phone-hacking scandal.



London: News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and his son James face questions from parliament on Tuesday in a phone-hacking scandal that has rocked Britain`s establishment right up to Prime Minister David Cameron.

With a second British police chief quitting on Monday over the scandal, Cameron cut short a trade trip to Africa and was due to return late on Tuesday to attend an emergency debate the following day in parliament, which is delaying its summer recess. Before returning to Britain the prime minister, in Lagos, Nigeria, will give a press conference at 1200 GMT.

The Murdochs` appearance before parliament`s media select committee was expected to attract a television audience of millions keen to follow the latest twist in a saga that has shaken Britons` faith in their police, press and political leaders.

"It seems as if there will be standing-room only, that`s not surprising as it`s the first time Rupert Murdoch has been before a select committee in his 40 years of building up a media empire," said Paul Farrelly, an opposition Labour committee member.

Murdoch`s News International British arm had long maintained that the practice of intercepting mobile phone voicemails to get stories was the work of a sole "rogue reporter" on the News of the World newspaper.

That defense crumbled in the face of a steady drip-feed of claims by celebrities that they were targeted.
The floodgates opened two weeks ago when a lawyer for the family of a murdered teenage schoolgirl claimed the paper had hacked her phone when she was missing, deleting messages and raising false hopes she could be still alive.

The ensuing outrage prompted News Corp to close the 168-year-old News of the World newspaper, drop a $12 billion plan to take full control of pay TV operator BSkyB, and saw the arrest of former News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks, a Murdoch protégé.

Cameron has faced questions over his judgment in appointing former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief, while London police chief Paul Stephenson and anti-terrorism head John Yates stepped down within 24 hours of each other over their links to a former deputy editor of the newspaper.
"No circus"

The parliamentary committee has been pursuing the phone-hacking allegations for more than four years, saying in a report in 2010 that it was inconceivable that managers did not know about the practice.

"We intend to be calm and forensic. There will be no circus, no playing to the gallery because we really need to get to the bottom of everything that has gone on," said Farrelly, a former journalist who once worked for Reuters.

"We want to know who knew what, and when, and how wide the whole ambit of illegal activity, of which phone-hacking was only one part, went, and how far any cover up went."

In another twist to a story gripping the attention of many Britons was news of the death of an ex-News of the World journalist Sean Hoare. It was Hoare who told the New York Times that phone hacking at the tabloid was far more extensive than the paper had acknowledged at the time.

A former show business reporter also told the BBC he was asked by Editor Andy Coulson, who went on to work for the prime minister, to tap phones. Police said the death of Hoare was being treated as "unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious.
News International chairman James Murdoch said earlier this month that the News of the World "made statements to parliament without being in full possession of the facts" and he is certain to be questioned on that statement.

The Murdochs are due to appear at 2:30 pm (1330 GMT), followed an hour later by a separate hearing for Brooks.

Brooks, a former News of the World editor, resigned as News International chief executive on Friday and was arrested by police on Sunday on suspicion of corruption and intercepting communications before being released on bail.

PTI

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