British media deflect criticism over phone hacking

9th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's newspapers on Saturday rejected any attempt by Prime Minister David Cameron to blame them for the phone hacking row at the News of the World, saying he must take his share of responsibility.

Cameron admitted Friday that politicians, the press and the police had not taken allegations of voicemail hacking seriously enough.

He took responsibility for hiring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson despite questions over what he knew about hacking, and for the close relationship he and his predecessors had with the paper's owner, Rupert Murdoch.

In response to Murdoch's decision to close the News of the World after torrid revelations, Cameron also called for an inquiry into wider media practices, saying the existing system of self-regulation "is not working".

But the Daily Mail warned in an editorial: "Truly, it is a dark day for the Conservative Party when its leader, in a bid to save his own skin, advocates the muzzling of the free press."

It added: "Yes, the NotW (News of the World) deserves no sympathy.

"But the fact remains that, alongside the smut and prurience, the paper broke many important stories, successfully exposed corruption and carried serious political content."

The Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph conceded that Cameron "had a point" when he said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which enforces a voluntary system of media regulation, had not acted to stop the hacking.

"Yet he ignores the fact that it was not the police or the government, but a newspaper -- The Guardian -- that exposed the full extent of the scandal," it said in an editorial.

"And it is hard for the PCC to take criticism of its ineffectiveness from a prime minister who appointed Andy Coulson, the News of the Worlds former editor, as his director of communications, and who is personally compromised by his association with senior News International executives."

The left-leaning Daily Mirror tabloid echoed this, saying: "The prime minister's suggestion that all British media is at fault is simply wrong.

"His close, personal friendships with those in the Murdoch empire who now stand in disgrace, forged when in opposition, have tainted his premiership."

© 2011 AFP

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