Murdoch heads to Britain as News of the World closes

9th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Rupert Murdoch headed to London to take charge of dealing with a phone-hacking scandal at Britain's News of the World tabloid, as journalists on Saturday prepared the paper's final edition.

The News Corp. chief was expected to arrive in Britain on Sunday, a company source said, as the sensationalist tabloid that has been in circulation for 168 years hits news stands for the last time.

Murdoch has been keen to limit the fallout from the crisis which has cast a shadow over his bid to take full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, on which the government is due to decide soon.

The opposition Labour party meanwhile ratcheted up pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, a day after one of his former aides was arrested over the scandal, demanding that the establishment of an inquiry be speeded up.

Murdoch's arrival comes as about 200 staff at the News of the World face an uncertain future as the paper closes its doors.

News of the World journalists said emotions were running high as the paper prepared to go to print for the last time. Editor Colin Myler said it was a "very difficult day for us all", in a personal e-mail to staff.

"It's not where we want to be and it's not where we deserve to be," he wrote.

"But I know we will produce a paper to be proud of."

Murdoch took the decision on Thursday to close the publication, Britain's biggest-selling Sunday paper which is part of his British newspaper business News International, following days of fresh phone-hacking allegations.

Claims that the News of the World hacked the voicemails of a murdered girl and the families of dead soldiers rapidly deepened a crisis that has been dogging the paper for several years.

Despite the anger, Britons are expected to the snap up the final copy of the paper as a souvenir and a News International source said the print run had been substantially increased.

The paper normally sells some 2.6 million copies a week.

Political pressure meanwhile mounted on Cameron on Saturday, a day after his ex-media chief Andy Coulson was arrested on suspicion of involvement in phone hacking during his time as editor of the paper.

The Labour party demanded that the government take steps to speed up the establishment of a judge-led inquiry into the scandal following a report that a News International executive destroyed vital evidence.

The Conservative prime minister has announced a judge-led public inquiry into the furore, as well as a second inquiry into the way in which the British press is regulated.

"In view of the fact that the News of the World is shutting down, it is a matter of great urgency that any documentary evidence, including files and emails, is preserved to enable a proper inquiry into these serious allegations to take place," said the Labour party 's culture spokesman Ivan Lewis.

"It is essential that we engage in immediate discussions so that by the end of the day we are in a position to agree the appointment of the judge."

The call came after the Guardian newspaper reported that police were investigating whether an executive deleted "millions of emails" from an internal archive. A News International spokeswoman said: "This assertion is rubbish."

Cameron's Downing Street office however insisted it was acting "as rapidly as possible and legally permissible", in a statement.

Coulson, who was released on bail Friday until October after his arrest on suspicion of involvement in phone hacking and corruption, quit as Cameron's communications director in January as the hacking scandal grew.

This followed his resignation from the top job at The News of the World in 2007 after a journalist and a private investigator working for the paper were jailed over phone hacking.

As editor, Coulson said he took ultimate responsibility for the hacking but always denied any knowledge that it took place on his watch.

On Friday, police also arrested Clive Goodman, the News of the World's former royal editor and one of two men jailed in 2007 for hacking the voicemails of Princes William and Harry.

He was detained on allegations of corruption and later bailed until October.

A third man, aged 63, was arrested on suspicion of corruption late Friday and was later released on bail until October.

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article