Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. acted as a “shadow state,” assigning reporters to investigate a parliamentary panel looking into one of its newspapers, in what lawmaker Tom Watson called a successful attempt to intimidate the committee’s members.
Watson, speaking today at the launch of his book “Dial M For Murdoch,” said the News of the World assigned six reporters to dig for personal information on Parliament’s Culture Committee in 2009, after it began asking questions about phone-hacking at the tabloid.
“I am sorry to say this tactic was successful,” Watson, who was on the committee at the time, told reporters. “The committee’s legitimate investigation was undermined and Parliament was, in effect, intimidated. The web of influence which News Corp. spun in Britain, which effectively bent politicians, police and many others in public life to its will, amounted to a shadow state.”
According to Watson and Paul Farrelly, a fellow Labour member of the committee who attended today’s gathering in London, the result of the intimidation was a 2010 decision not to summon Rebekah Brooks, the then-chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. unit News International, to testify before them. Both lawmakers refused to say which members of the committee were influenced.
“If I was targeted by a particular journalist, it’s news to me,” Farrelly said. “Maybe they couldn’t find anything out.”
He said the committee’s report into whether News Corp. executives lied to the panel in 2009, which Chairman John Whittingdale had originally said would be released at the end of last year, will be made public May 1.
“At no stage did News International ever suggest to me that there would be consequences for members of any decision we took, and I was not aware of any such suggestions being made to other members,” Whittingdale said in a statement.