Tuesday, 5 July 2011

News of the World's criminality.

For months people have been wondering whether there could be any more revelations in the phone hacking scandal, whether News of the World and the tabloid press in general could sink any lower. Whether Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson could possibly be dragged in more disrepute than they are already in.

Today, we got an answer, yes they can. And the most damaging aspect of today's news, that they hacked the phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, is that the issue now has a very personal - and very shocking - side to it. This isn't now an issue of idle celebrity tittle-tattle, it's an issue that everyone can relate to, and that no-one can condone.

For those who've been watching BBC and Sky News, or readers of broadsheets this story will not be new. However, for those who prefer tabloids, the chances are this is the first you will have heard about it. That's because there has been what can only be called a conspiracy of silence to cover up this story by the majority of the nations tabloids, which in itself only adds to the scandal.

I'm glad that Ed Miliband has come out immediately and called for the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, but also agree with him that this is far bigger than just one person. It appears to be a culture at these newspapers, and demands a more thorough investigation. As the person in charge at the time, Brooks was either complicit in the act, or totally unaware of the goings on in her own newsroom. As Hugh Grant put it on Radio 4 earlier (who, incidentally, ran an excellent expose on the whole saga himself), "Brooks & Coulson are either the worst editors in history of the world or they're liars." Either way, Brooks has to go.

And after that, we need a full independent review of these practices, not only looking into what happens in newsrooms, but at their relationship with the police. Only then can the British media start to rebuild it's shattered reputation.

In the meantime, it's up to the public to force advertisers to hit the News of the World where it hurts, in the coffers.

Edit: Lest we pretend this only happens at a select number of newspapers, here's stories about the Mirror and Sun being found in contempt of court over their treatment of Chris Jefferies and the appalling headline from the Daily Mail where it tried to apportion blame for the tragic death of a young girl on the teachers striking that day.

Update: Just hours after I originally posted this, the saga got worse, it turns out that the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman have also been contacted by police in relation to the possibility that they may also have had their phones hacked. The whole affair grows more disgusting by the minute.

It later emerged that there are also suspicions that News of the World may have hacked the phones of the McCann's and of families of 7/7 victims. It seems that for every major tragedy of recent years, there are suspicions that News of the World were looking for a story to sell their rag, no matter what the human cost.

I'm going to leave a link to another website here which will be updated regularly with the advertisers who have pulled out of News of the World, as news is coming in all the time. At the time of writing those who have pulled out include Ford, Vauxhall, Renault, Cadbury's, Mumsnet, Coca Cola, Natwest, Bodyshop, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Lloyds, Halifax, Virgin Holidays, and the Co-operative. Several other are actively 'reviewing their position'. The only company to categorically say they will carry on advertising in the paper is Morrison's.

For updates on the boycott.

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