Friday, 8 July 2011

Put Murdoch and News International on trial

For a democratic workers' and public inquiry into the role of News International, the police and their links with the political establishment
By Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland -

Rupert Murdoch (see picture above) has been forced to call time on the 168-year old News of the World (NoW). The venal phone-hacking scandal had turned the NoW into a completely toxic rag in the eyes of millions and was threatening to undermine Murdoch’s hopes of securing 100% control of his coveted BSkyB.

The revelations that Milly Dowler – the 13 year old murdered in 2002 – had her voicemail hacked by the private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who was working for the News of the World, caused mass outrage. A boycott the News of the World campaign was gaining huge support.

Multi-national companies including Ford, Proctor and Gamble, Mitsubishi, Lloyds and Halifax pulled their advertising. This was in response to reports that some of those who lost family members in the 7/7 bombings in 2005 have also been targeted for hacking by the NoW. As have families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The police have told the parents of the two girls, Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, also murdered in 2002 in Soham, that they’re phones were, in all likelihood, hacked. All child killings are now to be looked at by the current police phone-hacking investigation to see whether their families were also victims of the NoW’s gutter methods.

Establishment cover-up

These new and shocking revelations come from documents seized from Glenn Mulcaire in 2006, but are only now coming to light. This follows political and public pressure for a new inquiry following what was widely seen as a cover-up by the Metropolitan Police during first “investigation” in 2006. Then the police claimed that Mulcaire targeted only a very small number of people. News International assured that “only one rouge reporter” was involved in illegal phone-hacking. The then editor of the NoW, Andy Coulson resigned after Mulcaire and the paper’s “Royal Correspondent”, Clive Goodman, were jailed. Coulson went on to be appointed as David Cameron’s chief media adviser but resigned late last year.

However, Sean Hoare, a former reporter who worked for Coulson at The Sun and The News of the World, told The New York Times that he had played tape recordings of hacked messages for Coulson and that his former boss “actively encouraged me” to break into the voice-mail accounts of public figures. Hoare told the BBC Coulson was “well aware that the practice exists. To deny it is a lie, is simply a lie.”

Unbelievably, even as late as December 2010 Scotland Yard claimed not to have found any new evidence of criminal activity. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was "no admissible evidence" to support the claims that public figures' phones were hacked. It was only when actress Sienna Miller civil case was breaking that their was a change of mind. It was only in January 2011 that the Met Police issued a statement saying they were to launch a fresh investigation into hacking after receiving "significant new information" This significant new information had been in their hands since 2006.

The Guardian newspaper in 2009 claimed thousands of people had been hacked by Mulcaire who was on the NoW payroll. Then the New York Times in 2010 exposed the fact that the Metropolitan Police had actually seized 4,332 names, 2,987 mobile phone numbers and 91 PIN codes (needed for accessing voicemail messages) from Glenn Mulgaire when he was arrested in 2006. This alone would clearly indicate that phone hacking and other activities were indeed being practiced on an “industrial scale.” Mulcaire’s documents run to 11,000 pages and contained the mobile numbers and other personal information of thousands of targets. All the revelations about Milly Dowler, the 7/7 families and the parents of other murdered children were in the hands of the police in 2006.

The extent of police collusion to cover-up the NoW activities is breathtaking. Andy Hayman, who led the 2006 inquiry for the Met, now writes for the Times and other Murdoch papers. As Labour MP Paul Farrelly, a member of the select committee who looked into the phone hacking scandal commented, "Had Mr Hayman been in charge of the Watergate inquiry, President Nixon would have safely served a full term.” We were very critical of the evasiveness displayed by Mr Yates (Hayman’s replacement) in the police evidence to us."

News International are desperately trying to erect a cordon sanitaire around their chief executive, Rebecca Brooks. Brooks was the editor of the NoW from 2000-2003 and claims to know nothing of any phone-hacking. Significantly, News International exec’s have passed to the police inquiry details of payments to police officers signed off by Andy Coulson, for “information”. It seems likely that they are preparing to offer up Coulson as a sacrifice to protect Brooks.

payments to police

The widespread use of payments to police officers is another reason why the Met police indulged in a blatant cover up. It exposes the embedded links between the Murdoch press and sections of the state machine including the British government. Both Murdoch and Brooks regularly met with Tony Blair and now David Cameron to push for their right-wing political agenda to be implemented. Just a few weeks ago senior Labour figures including Ed Balls attended a party thrown by Rupert Murdoch at which were invited Britain's political elite. In particular Murdoch has been lobbying Cameron and the Con-Dem coalition to allow News Corporation to own BSkyB outright, which would give then an unassailable position as the UK’s most powerful broadcaster.

Alongside this, News International executives, particularly Murdoch junior, have launched a broadside against the BBC and its “monopoly”, calling for an end to licence fee payments going to the corporation. Their aim is to establish a totally dominant position for not just their titles, but also the political ideology they promote – free market capitalism and a virulent hostility to the interests of the working class.

News International’s four UK papers; The Sun, The Times, Sunday Times and the News of the World, hold a 37% share of all newspaper circulation. Sky TV is already the biggest broadcaster in terms of revenue - £5.9 billion last year alone with profits just under £1 billion. This puts Sky ahead of the BBC and ITN in terms of financial resources. Murdoch is desperate to win 100% control of BSkyB (he currently holds 40%), so he can access the full cash-cow that is Sky TV. This cannot be allowed to proceed and the Con-Dem government is under huge pressure to suspend the proposed takeover.

Full democratic public inquiry needed

Demands for a full and open public inquiry are growing into the phone-hacking scandal and the collusion of the police and many politicians. Even Cameron and now Milliband have belatedly come out in favour of an inquiry or even two inquiries. But we cannot allow such an inquiry to be the same tame pro-establishment farce as the Chilcott farce into the Iraq war.

The Socialist Party demands a full and transparent public investigation by a democratic and accountable committee that would involve elected workers representatives, including those of the print trade unions who Murdoch tried to destroy during the Wapping dispute. Full access to all the documents seized from Mulcaire and other information must be handed over by the police to an independent inquiry.

Under capitalism, our media is neither fair nor impartial - but ultimately is there to defend the prevailing capitalist system and the abuse of power and control by a rich and powerful elite. Especially today, in the wake of a huge economic crisis for capitalism the media will aim to peddle the lie that working class people should pay for a crisis they did not create.

At the same time the Murdoch press are silent about the rich bankers and top bosses whose bonuses are back to pre-crash levels. This is in stark contrast to the millions who are facing unemployment and savage cuts in public services.

That’s why we campaign for the democratic public ownership of the major media corporations as the only way to break their abuse of power and ensure a democratic media. It would then be possible to ensure democratic access to the press based on an allocation to different ideas, including socialist views, dependent on their levels of public support.

Tommy Sheridan case

The avalanche of evidence about the scale of the News of the World's illegal activities including phone-hacking and bribing of police officers has led the Scottish Crown to ask Strathclyde Police to investigate the possibility that senior NoW staff lied during the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial.

Former NoW editor Andy Coulson claimed in court that he knew nothing about the phone-hacking at the NoW. Even though Tommy’s details were found in Mulcaire’s seized documents. He also denied ever paying bribes to police officers. Furthermore, Bob Bird, the Scottish editor of the NoW also said he knew nothing about the hacking of Tommy Sheridan's phone or any other surveillance methods used by the NoW. He also claimed he could not find email correspondance between the NoW and Glenn Mulcaire about the investigation that the paper did into Tommy Sheridan. Bird said they had been “shipped off to Mumbai”. Tom Watson the Labour MP who has been to the forefront of the campaign to get to the truth about the phone-hacking scandal has been told that the email correspondence is in fact in a warehouse in London. He described Sheridan's conviction as "unsound" in the House of Commons.

Tommy Sheridan's solicitor, Aamer Anwar and Tom Watson have handed to the police a dossier including the names of dozens of people in Scotland who were hacked by the NoW private investigators.

The reality is that the jury at the perjury trial were denied a full picture of the illegal lengths, including the money paid, that the NoW went to undermine Tommy Sheridan. If they had been given all the facts then it is likely the jury would have arrived at a different verdict. In addition had these revelations about the NoW hacking of Milly Dowler and others, including Tommy Sheridan, been made available before Tommy Sheridan’s perjury trial, rather than covered up by the police, there would have been no possibility of a conviction. As it was the jury only found him guilty by eight to six and this conviction, in the light of what has happened in the last few days, must now be overturned.

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