UK PM promises media regulation, ex-aide arrested

Last Updated: Friday, July 8, 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.

PTI



First Published: Friday, July 8, 2011 - 19:00

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