Rupert Murdoch’s decision to close the News of the World is not enough and News International Chief Executive Officer Rebekah Brooks should quit over phone-hacking and payments to police, opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said.
Brooks, who was editor of the News Corp.-owned British tabloid newspaper when an investigator working for it is alleged to have hacked into the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, should be accountable for what happened on her watch, Miliband said.
“She should go, she should take responsibility,” Miliband told BBC television today. “It’s a big decision but I don’t think it solves the problem. It’s a sign of what trouble News International is in.”
As News Corp. attempts to win approval for taking full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY), opponents have sought to link the phone-hacking scandal to the deal. Prime Minister David Cameron is also under pressure for hiring as his communications chief former News of The World editor Andy Coulson, who had already resigned over phone-hacking at the newspaper and is now facing allegations over payments to police officers.
Tom Watson and Chris Bryant, Labour lawmakers who led a campaign against News Corp., said the closure of the paper, announced today by Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch, would not satisfy those whose privacy had been invaded by phone-hacking.
“This paper has closed but the hacking saga has not,” Watson told Sky News. “There are still people who did the most egregious invasions of privacy to people suffering massive amounts of grief. The anger will only subside when a very senior executive in the company takes responsibility for this heinous attack on British people.”
From 2007, when one of its reporters was jailed for phone-hacking, to 2010, News International, News Corp.’s U.K. publishing division, denied that there was any widespread culture of illegality at the newspaper. The company was backed in this by London’s Metropolitan Police, which said there wasn’t enough evidence to support further prosecutions.
‘On Her Watch’
The closure of the paper “is all to save Rebekah Brooks, they are trying to draw a line under this,” Bryant, who is suing the paper, said in a telephone interview. “It is inconceivable for her to stay now and if she had a shred of decency she would have resigned by now. These things happened on her watch.”
James Murdoch, News Corp’s deputy chief operating officer, said Brooks’s leadership has been crucial to the company’s response to the scandal and he is satisfied she was not involved in phone-hacking.
“She’s doing the right thing for the company, it’s her leadership that has gotten to grips with this whole period in the company’s history,” Murdoch told Sky News. “Her leadership is actually crucial right now. It’s actually her moving a lot of this forward.”
“I’m satisfied that she neither had knowledge of, nor directed, those activities,” Murdoch said.
Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the revelations should sway the government’s decision on whether to allow the BSkyB takeover to go ahead.
‘Concerned About Morality’
“The government is only concerned about plurality but can I say that they should get concerned about morality,” Prescott told the BBC. “They are taking away the attention from the massive criminal acts committed by people in Murdoch’s company.”
Watson said Cameron, a personal friend of Brooks, is one of her few remaining supporters.
“There are only two people in Britain today supporting Rebekah Brooks -- Rupert Murdoch and David Cameron,” Watson said. “This is a victory for decent people up and down the land and I say good riddance to the News of the World.”
Illegal activity by journalists should be exposed and those responsible must face justice, Cameron’s office said in response to the newspaper’s closure.
“What matters is that all wrongdoing is exposed and those responsible for these appalling acts are brought to justice,” it said in an e-mailed statement. Cameron “is committed to establishing rigorous public inquiries to make sure this never happens in our country again.”
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