British deputy PM: News International executives should go

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Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Friday senior executives from Rupert Murdoch's News International should resign over a telephone-hacking scandal at one of the group's tabloids.

Asked whether the group's chief executive Rebekah Brooks should step down, Clegg told reporters it was not fair that junior staff should take the blame, declaring: "Someone higher up the chain has to take responsibility."

On Thursday, Murdoch's son James, who chairs global media giant News Corporation's British newspaper group News International, announced the imminent closure of the 168-year-old weekly The News of the World.

Hundreds of journalists and other staff face the sack, but many in Britain have called for Brooks -- who was editor of the paper at a time when executives are alleged to have paid for illegal voicemail hacking -- to step down.

"It's just not fair to fire a bunch of secretaries and office managers and think you can wash your hands of the affair," Clegg told reporters during a visit to Paris.

"In business as in politics, if you are senior you have authority, you've got power, you've got the responsibility to take it on the chin when things go wrong," he argued.

"I think that it's very important that poeple in authority in News International should reflect very hard on their own positions," he said, without mentioning Brooks nor James Murdoch by name.

Clegg, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrat wing of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-led coalition, had earlier vowed the government would help to clean up media behaviour and restore public trust.

But the government itself has been embarrassed by the scandal, because of its close ties to Murdoch's empire.

Police arrested Cameron's former chief media adviser Andy Coulson on Friday over alleged offences he is said to have committed while editor of the News of the World between 2003 and 2007, when he resigned over telephone hacking.

Cameron is also a personal friend of Brooks.

© 2011 AFP

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