UK Cracks Down on Media Phone Hacking
In the UK, the British government minister responsible for the media relations released a statement on Sunday that said the country’s press must face tougher penalties for breaking the unspoken agreement of respectable journalism in the wake of the recent celebrity phone hacking scandal.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt concurred with the statement, saying that the journalism industry should change its self-regulation standards. He later insisted, however, that the government should not assume any kind of responsibility in enforcing these standards, saying it should be left up to journalists and their respective publishers. The current coalition responsible for enforcing the standards, the Press Complaints Commission, has much power over the journalism world in the UK and can force a newspaper to print a public statement of apology; however, the Press Complaints commission cannot issue fines or place arrests of any kind.
A few lawmakers have stated their own collective opinion; they say that journalists who breech their standards and resort to unethical tactics should not be allowed to work in the journalism field.
The media ethics inquiry, has heard evidence of phone hacking from many of the hacking’s targets, including British celebrities like J.K. Rowling and Hugh Grant, crime victims, newspaper executives and reporters. The inquiry is expected to lay down a list of recommendations for major changes to media regulations when the report is released later this year.
“I think everyone recognizes we don’t want the state regulating content,” Hunt said in an interview with BBC television regarding the incident.
However, Hunt did go on to say that Britain needs “a tougher system and I would like it to be an industry-led system,” but added that “if a newspaper is going to be punished for stepping out of line then it needs to be a credible punishment.”
The country’s broadcasters are regulated by a separate communications industry watchdog.
Hunt’s comments follow new developments in the police investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Britain’s tabloids.
Five employees at The Sun tabloid, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, were arrested Saturday in an inquiry into the alleged payment of bribes to police and other officials, prompting executives to issue a message to staff insisting owner Rupert Murdoch did not plan to close down the title.
In July, Murdoch shuttered the 168-year-old News of The World tabloid amid public outrage when the extent of its phone hacking of celebrities, public figures and crime victims was exposed.
Murdoch, whose News Corp. bought The Sun in 1969, is scheduled to travel to Britain within days to spend time with his company’s staff, as the scandal over tabloid malpractice continues to rattle the country’s media industry.
Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Tom Watson, a frequent critic of News Corp. who has worked to exposed tabloid wrongdoing, said Murdoch still had questions to address over the scandal.
“It’s quite clear to me that over many years wrongdoing took place on a number of newspapers at News International. He’s the boss of the company, he’s responsible for corporate governance,” Watson told BBC television.
All five staff at The Sun and three public officials arrested in the bribe inquiry Saturday — a police officer, a serving member of the armed forces and a defense ministry official — were released on bail pending further inquiries.
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