It started with the News of the World’s royal editor and a private investigator who intercepted voice mail messages left for members of the royal household. Both men were jailed in 2007. Illegal voice mail interceptions apparently continued, implicating other journalists and staff.
In July 2011, further allegations were made that the News of the World hacked into the voice mails of murder victim Milly Dowler (and deleted messages creating a false hope for the family that she was alive and listening to her messages), as well as victims of the 7/7 attacks and relatives of deceased British soldiers.
In spite of being warned (according to reports) by the Deputy Prime Minister about former Editor of News of the World Andy Coulson’s involvement in the phone hacking affair, Prime Minister David Cameron appointed him as his communications director — and had to “let him go” when his links to the scandal became public knowledge.
By March 2010, the paper had spent over £2 million settling court cases with victims of phone hacking. In July 2009, The Guardian newspaper made a series of allegations of wider phone hacking activities at the News of the World newspaper, that were aimed at other celebrities.
The list of possible victims broadened to include ministers, a Member of Parliament, military chiefs, leading media figures, top footballers and other celebrities.
James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son has closed the newspaper after a call to examine its use of private investigators to gain access to the mobile phone messages of a variety of celebrities and public figures of interest to the newspaper, by using phone hacking.
An assistant Police commissioner responsible for overseeing Scotland Yard inquiry into such practices has left the police to work for News International (Murdoch’s media empire) as a columnist for The Times.
Outside of the UK, Murdoch’s News Corporation owns a multitude of news outlets in the United States, including the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the Fox News Channel. Even though none of News Corporation’s US outlets have yet been implicated in the scandal, several media critics have called for investigations into whether they too engaged in phone hacking activities.
According to Mirror (http://www.mirror.co.uk/2011/07/11/phone-hacking-9-11-victims-may-have-had-mobiles-tapped-by-news-of-the-world-reporters-115875-23262694) a former New York policeman reported that News of the World also attempted to retrieve private phone records of those who died in the September 11 terrorist attack.
There is a great deal of information published mainly by the Guardian newspaper, ie, www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/10/news-international-cover-up-police. Wikipedia keeps a detailed log as events unfold, although information is uploaded without checking for accuracy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_of_the_World_phone_hacking_affair
As more details emerge attempts by the media group to obstruct the legal work have been reported, also by The Guardian: “Scotland Yard has accused News International of undermining its inquiry into police corruption by leaking confidential details of investigations to the media. NI has orchestrated a “deliberate campaign to undermine the investigation into alleged payments by corrupt journalists to corrupt police officers and divert attention from elsewhere”, the Met said in a statement.
Meantime “Rupert Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB (video channel) has been sent to the UK Competition Commission. The News Corp. announcement leads to automatic referral – a move that could buy time for the News of the World furore to fade”. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/11/rupert-murdoch-bid-bskyb-competition-commission
Dare we hope that this time the media giant used to getting away with just about everything, that boasts of hiring and firing Prime Ministers by the power of its publications and that has been working its way towards a media monopoly, can be finally called to account? What is emerging is the kind of web of journalists, editors, detectives, perhaps even police and many other people who collaborate with this objectionable and illegal form of journalism. It should not tarnish the profession as a whole but we should welcome the opportunity to discuss a moral code for the media.