Sun newspaper 'will continue' says Rupert Murdoch

Five journalists at the Sun newspaper have been arrested by detectives investigating allegations of corrupt payments to the police

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News International owner Rupert Murdoch has said he is committed to publishing the Sun newspaper, following the arrest of five of its employees.

They were among eight people arrested - and later bailed - over alleged corrupt payments to police and public servants.

A Surrey Police officer, a member of the armed forces and a Ministry of Defence employee were also arrested.

Sun editor Dominic Mohan said he was "shocked" by the arrests but pledged to continue to lead the paper.

The BBC understands picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, reporter John Sturgis and associate editor Geoff Webster were arrested as part of the Operation Elveden probe into payments to police.

The arrests marked a widening out of the operation to include the investigation of evidence in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers.

News International chief executive Tom Mockridge issued a memo to Sun staff, which said: "The Sun has a proud history of delivering ground-breaking journalism.

The Sun newspaper picture editor John Edwards The Sun picture editor John Edwards is understood to be among those arrested

"I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper."

Mr Murdoch is expected to visit staff in London later this week.

Mr Mockridge also told staff that "today we are facing our greatest challenge" following the arrests of five of its staff, which was "difficult for everyone on The Sun and particularly for those of you who work closely with those involved".

A News International spokeswoman confirmed the memo set out News Corporation and Mr Murdoch's position.

However, a News International employee told the BBC's Matt Prodger that staff felt "absolutely furious" and "betrayed by management" in light of the arrests.

Mr Mohan said: "I'm as shocked as anyone by today's arrests but am determined to lead the Sun through these difficult times.

"I have a brilliant staff and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is on putting out Monday's newspaper."

'Total support'

News Corporation confirmed five Sun employees been arrested.

Operation Elveden

  • Running alongside Metropolitan Police's phone-hacking investigation, Operation Weeting
  • Elveden launched after police were handed documents suggesting News International journalists had made illegal payments to officers
  • Documents were handed over by News International on 20 June 2010
  • Investigation is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission
  • More than 20 arrests have so far been made as part of Operation Elveden

Five men aged between 45 and 68 were arrested at their homes in London, Kent and Essex on suspicion of corruption, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy in relation to both offences.

A Surrey Police officer and a Ministry of Defence employee, both 39, and a member of the armed forces, 36, were also arrested at their homes on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both. Two were arrested in Wiltshire and one in Surrey.

All five journalists - aged 45, 47, 50, 52 and 68 - the Ministry of Defence employee and the armed forces employee have been released on bail until May, while the policeman was bailed until March.

Their homes were being searched and officers were also carrying out searches at the offices of News International in Wapping, east London.

News Corp said its Management and Standards Committee (MSC) had provided information to the Elveden inquiry which led to the arrests.

The company said in a statement: "News Corporation remains committed to ensuring that unacceptable news-gathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated and last summer authorised the MSC to co-operate with the relevant authorities."

Mr Murdoch has previously appeared before the House of Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

Tom Watson MP, who sits on the committee, told Channel 4 News that Mr Murdoch and other senior News International staff could be recalled for further questioning in the light of the new arrests.

"If they've got evidence of a reasonable suspicion that the police were paid by News International then Parliament needs to know - I would hope they give us written evidence but if not we might have to drag them back," he said.

Start Quote

If you have a police force or military or officials in the civil service who are so terrified to have contacts with journalists, that will not serve the public interest”

End Quote Paul Connew

"Today's developments show this is no longer only about phone-hacking. It goes to the very heart of corporate governance of the company led by Rupert Murdoch.

"Experience shows the company were aware of wrong-doing before it was forced into the public domain by police or civil action but there are now more questions that must be answered."

Low morale

Media consultant and former deputy editor of the now-defunct News of the World, Paul Connew, told the BBC that morale at the Sun would be "rock bottom".

Mr Connew said he was intrigued to see where the line would be drawn between whistleblowers who provide information for public interest purposes and those whom the establishment disliked.

He said: "If you have a police force or military or officials in the civil service who are so terrified to have contacts with journalists, that will not serve the public interest."

The National Union of Journalists has condemned the latest arrests.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "Journalists are reeling at seeing five more of their colleagues thrown to the wolves in what many sense to be a witch-hunt.

"They are furious at what they see as a monumental betrayal on the part of News International."

Media analyst Claire Enders said the Sun's future should not be in doubt as it "hasn't experienced any specific loss of sales as a result of the arrests that occurred earlier in the year".

News Corporation is the parent company of News International which owns the Sun and the Times.

Last month, four former and current Sun journalists and a Metropolitan Police officer were arrested as part of the inquiry and released on bail.

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