London: Rupert Murdoch`s British tabloid The
Sun on Monday condemned police raids against its journalists as a
"witch-hunt" worthy of former communist states, and won rare
support from rival newspapers.
The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, both
non-Murdoch papers, also questioned the scale of the police
operation after another five Sun staff were arrested at the
weekend in a probe into alleged bribery.
Days before Murdoch was due to fly to London to
reassure staff that he would not close it down, Sun associate
editor Trevor Kavanagh said the paper was "not a `swamp` that
"Nor are those other great News International titles,
The Times and The Sunday Times," he added.
"Yet in what would at any other time cause uproar in
parliament and among civil liberty and human rights
campaigners, its journalists are being treated like members of
an organised crime gang."
Kavanagh, who was political editor at The Sun from
1984 to 2005, said that payments to sources were sometimes
necessary to uncover stories in the public interest.
"Sometimes money changes hands. This has long been
standard procedure as long as newspapers have existed, here
and abroad," he wrote.
The police operation was now bigger than the one
launched after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of a Pan Am
passenger jet, with 171 officers involved making it the
biggest in British criminal history, Kavanagh said.
He said it was no surprise that Britain lags in 28th
place behind former communist states Poland, Estonia and
Slovakia in a recent world press freedom survey by Reporters
"Wives and children have been humiliated as up to 20
officers at a time rip up floorboards and sift through
intimate possessions, love letters and entirely private
documents," Kavanagh wrote.
A Scotland Yard spokesman declined to comment on the
Twenty-one people have now been arrested in the
inquiry into alleged corrupt payments made by journalists to
police officers and other public officials in exchange for