Monday, 13 February 2012

Witch-hunt or just deserts: the Sun newsroom circles the wagons

Just as Rupert Murdoch didn’t blink when he took on News International newspaper workers in the Wapping dispute nearly 30 years ago and axed the jobs of 300 News of the World staff recently in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, it’s no wonder The Sun employees are jumpy.
They fear being thrown to the wolves by the parent company News Corp’s management and standards committee (MSC), which is apparently enthusiastically providing the police with shed loads of information which has led to the arrest of 30 Sun journalists with perhaps more to come.
Payments to police informants rather than hacking are under the microscope, as the MSC is tasked with scrutinising countless archived emails and expense forms.
Reading between the lines there appears to be more than one target in the complaint of Sun political veteran and associate editor Trevor Kavanagh in his column today.
His main beef is with the police in claiming a disproportionate response has taken 171 officers – the biggest criminal investigation ever – away from more serious duties like tracking down potential terrorists ahead of the Olympics.
Three police inquiries, a Parliamentary inquiry, plus Leveson, dawn raids and the arrests constitute a witch-hunt, says Kavanagh.
There is also an indirect dig at Murdoch himself when he adds, “It is also important our parent company, News Corp, protects its reputation in the United States and the interests of its shareholders. But some of the greatest legends in Fleet Street have been held, at least on the basis of evidence so far revealed, for simply doing their jobs as journalists on behalf of the company.”
If the police had done their job properly the first time round we wouldn’t be in the current mess. But neither would we be if the press hadn’t allegedly corrupted police officers in the first place. The balance of blame is a fine one.
So much will depend on definition – a set of golf clubs may be a gift, lost bet, or a bribe and how many fine dinners can a policeman enjoy before his host becomes guilty of corruption?
I doubt Kavanagh will find much support outside the Sun readership - and even here there are bound to be doubters.
All I'll say is no one can be above the law but the freedom of speech ‘baby’ risks being thrown out with the clean-up press ethics ‘bathwater’.

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