I tend to avoid cross posting material from my work at the Daily Beast, but this is an important unintended consequence of Murdoch’s reaction to the Phone Hacking scandal which has sent a chilling effect through Fleet Street
News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch holds up a copy of the newly launched The Sun on Sunday newspaper last February in London. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty)
“What Rupert Murdoch has done is unprecedented in the free world,” says the veteran journalist Nick Cohen, author of a recent award-winning book about censorship, You Can’t Read This Book. “Managers have been tasked to go over every expense claim and emails for signs of wrongdoing,” he told The Daily Beast. In the process, Murdoch has “basically given up his journalists and their sources.”
Over a hundred people have been arrested since the phone hacking scandal engulfed Murdoch’s UK paper in the summer of 2011. Fifty five of them journalists. And the reason is not as simple as you would think:
During the height of the phone-hacking crisis that hit Murdoch’s London subsidiary in 2011, parent company News Corp. faced an even greater threat-an investigation in by the U.S. Department of Justice into alleged breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans payments to foreign officials. To reduce the potential hefty corporate fines and indictments of senior executives in New York, Murdoch created a beefed-up Management and Standards Committee (MSC), with access to a recovered database of more than 300 million emails from its London newspapers and a remit to cooperate with the police.
Since the phone-hacking scandal that shuttered the News of the World broke, there have been more than 100 related arrests. Fifty-five of these have been of journalists, and the majority not for suspicion of phone hacking, as in the six new arrests Wednesday, but on suspicion of corrupt payments to public officials, most of it on evidence provided by the MSC.
“Seriously,” Cohen points out, “more journalists have been arrested in Britain this year than in Iran.”
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