UK PM promises media regulation, ex-aide arrested
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Last Updated: Friday, July 08, 2011, 19:00
London: Britain's raging phone hacking scandal, where money was swapped for scoops, today prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to promise sweeping changes in press regulations, as a former editor of the collapsed tabloid 'News of the World' was arrested.

An embarrassed Cameron, whose former communications director Andy Coulson was arrested today, also vowed to launch a full investigation into the scandal that has shaken the British media like never before.

Cameron said the existing laws had failed to prevent malpractices that led to the collapse of the country's largest selling tabloid and instituted two inquiries. While one public inquiry will look into the phone-hacking scandal, the other will make recommendations on ethics and culture of the press.

The Press Complaints Commission, seen to be ineffectual, is likely to be scrapped soon.

Calling the phone-hacking scandal a 'cathartic moment and a crisis', Cameron said the press regulations in Britain, probably the oldest in the world, had failed and a new body, independent of the government and the news industry, was needed to regulate the media.

Personally embarrassed by his closeness with media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his executives, Cameron said in a candid press conference today that "we are all in this together", and blamed both politicians and press for the mess.

Coulson's arrest took place while Cameron was defending his decision to hire him while announcing the setting up of two inquiries to look into the scandal and its ethical implications for British journalism.

Coulson, 43, was arrested by detectives investigating allegations of phone-hacking and is also being questioned about allegations that police officers were bribed for information during his time as editor of the 168-year-old sensational tabloid.

He presented himself at a south London police station and is in custody.

The NOTW collapse comes at an embarrassing time for its owner Murdoch, who is seeking government clearance in a bid to take full control of the BSkyB, a price far more valuable than his British stable of newspapers.

The shares of the News International Corp and BSkyB have been plunging all week over the controversy. But there were still question marks over whether Murdoch would float a new tabloid in place of NOTW.

Several NOTW journalists have already been arrested and quizzed over the hacking allegations, but Coulson is by far the biggest fish.

Coulson had earlier resigned from the tabloid and Cameron said he decided to give him a 'second chance' as the director of communications.

Earlier this year, Coulson resigned this post due to allegations related to his past role as editor of the tabloid. Coulson had denied any knowledge of phone hacking while he was editor.

Cameron said, "I became friends with him and I think he did his job for me in a very effective way. He became a friend and he is a friend".

According to Cameron, Coulson had said he was unaware of the phone hacking which had been going on during his tenure at the paper.

"I decided to give him a second chance but the second chance didn't work. The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone," Cameron said.


First Published: Friday, July 08, 2011, 19:00

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