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Daily View: The fall-out from phone-hacking allegations

Clare Spencer | 10:42 UK time, Wednesday, 6 July 2011

News of the World front page


Commentators assess the fall-out from the continued phone-hacking allegations against the News of the World.

The Times editorial explains its change of tack in what it sees as journalists' version of MPs expenses:

"Before today, The Times, which, like the News of the World, is owned by News International, has taken the view that it ought not to comment on the issue of phone hacking. We have sought to report the story straight, in good faith, without taking any editorial view. A supportive line invites the accusation of speaking from the party script. A critical line is easily written off as a deliberate, insincere attempt to create distance from the story.
"But anyone who has serious faith in the public purpose of journalism has to record his or her dissent from the behaviour that has now been alleged. Anyone who believes in the nobility of the trade of reporting the truth, the better to inform the readers, and anyone who believes in the contribution of vibrant comment to a raucous and well-informed democracy, has to be clear when a line has been crossed."

The Independent's editorial says the latest allegations have sparked interest previously unseen:

"Even if it is true that the phone hacking investigation was once an arcane obsession of certain newspapers and politicians, that is emphatically not the case now. The fact that both the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, felt the need to come out in condemnation of the alleged offence yesterday reflected the extent of the public significance this saga has now taken on."

On the contrary Quentin Letts suggests in the Daily Mail that MPs may have different motives for their outrage:

"Though the anger about Milly Dowler is genuine, there is also a faint whiff of a political elite exacting revenge on a media which has repeatedly shown MPs to be swindlers and hypocrites. What a toxic carry-on.
"At this rate we'll have old Rupe himself summoned to the Commons Chamber and told to prostrate himself like some disgraced Japanese industrialist."

In the blog Political betting Mike Smithson predicts the political fall-out of this "mega story" to be played out in the commons today with PMQs at midday along with an emergency debate:

"For Labour the challenge is that the reported incidents took place while they were in government. For the Tories, and Cameron in particular, there are the sensitivities over the ex-Number 10 PR chief, Andy Coulson, and the PM's personal links with another ex-News of the World editor and now CEO of News International, Rebekah Brooks.
"If it becomes a partisan party political issue then my guess is that the blue team has most to lose."

In his Channel 4 News blog Jon Snow thinks there is another motive in the finger pointing:

"I know from my own sources that a number of journalists believe that other newspaper stables were hacking the phones of celebrities and others. But it has suited them to keep the focus on the stable that unites all other media operations in rivalry, News International."

The chief executive of Index on Censorship John Kampfner says in the Financial Times that the hacking accusations has made it a difficult time to campaign against new privacy laws but he continues to defend the idea of freedom of the press:

"No country has a perfect media, and goodness knows Britain's is flawed. But a healthy democracy should err on the side of journalists finding out too much rather than too little. By definition it is a rough trade. If an investigative reporter knows of, say, an arms company up to no good, should he in future be prevented from using subversive or undercover methods to seek out the truth? The criterion must be a heightened understanding of the public good, tested to distraction by editors and managers."

Simon Jenkins says in the Guardian that the hacking accusations can be understood within a context of press in crisis:

"For all newspapers, the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has become a moment of truth. It has shown how far commercial pressure from the web and from within big corporations has distorted ethics. Journalism has always tested the bounds of investigatory intrusion, but it cannot break or interfere with legal process. A law on privacy would be cumbersome and hard to police, but as the Press Complaints Commission is a broken reed in this matter, each scandal makes it harder to stave off calls for legislation. Such legislation would be a bad idea."

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