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No more News of the World
Celebrities routinely complain about Britain's deeply intrusive paparazzi. But a scandal over reporters hacking phones of bereaved people has caused uproar in the British Parliament, leading to the closure of The News of the World
The weekly tabloid newspaper at the center of a British phone hacking scandal is to be closed after a final, ad-free edition this weekend. The abrupt announcement from a top official at News Corp., James Murdoch, underscored the devastating effect of allegations that the paper's journalists invaded the voicemail accounts not only of a 13-year-old murder victim but also relatives of fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reports of stunning intrusions came a day after Britain's Parliament collectively turned on Rupert Murdoch, head of the News Corporation, which owns The News of the World, and the tabloid culture he represents, using the phone hacking scandal to denounce tactics by newspapers once seen as too influential to challenge. The scandal is taking a toll on News Corp. , with stock prices falling and new questions about Murdoch's proposed $12 billion takeover of the paytelevision company British Sky Broadcasting.
Unease about hacking tactics had been growing for months but the public mood turned to shock and revulsion this week after The Guardian reported that targets of the voice mail interception - originally presumed to be restricted to the famous - included the phone of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old schoolgirl abducted and murdered in 2002. Then, reports said families of people killed in the July 7, 2005, bombings in London had also been listened to without their knowledge or permission. The current head of News Corp. in Britain, Rebekah Brooks, has come under enormous scrutiny, since she was the editor of News of the World during the Dowler case. A spokesman for News International said: "If these allegations are true, we are absolutely appalled and horrified."
The News Corporation, with its ownership of four leading British newspapers, was once widely seen as such a powerful force that politicians and police officers walked in fear of it, fearing its disclosures and courting its support. But now, the disgust came thick and fast as legislators recited recent allegations against The News of the World: that its executives had paid police officers, lied to Parliament, hired investigators to intercept voicemail messages, and, in one instance, tampered with a murder investigation in which the suspects were linked to The News of the World.
"We have let one man have far too great a sway over our national life, " said Chris Bryant, a Labour MP. Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative legislator, said Murdoch was guilty of "systemic abuse of almost unprecedented power" and he had run roughshod over Parliament. "There is nothing noble in what these newspapers have been doing, " he said. "Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman - he's possibly even a genius - but his organisation has grown too powerful and has abused that power. "
Many focused outrage on Brooks, a protêgêe of Murdoch. She is a close friend of David Cameron's - the two have country houses near each other and have often socialised - and has been a strong champion of his premiership. Other reports indicated Andy Coulson, editor of The News of the World in the mid-2000 s, appeared to have authorised illegal payments to police officers during his time at the paper. The disclosure is relevant because of Coulson's close ties to the Conservative Party. Resigning from The News of the World in 2007 after an earlier phone hacking investigation, Coulson was quickly hired by Cameron as the Conservative Party's chief spokesman.
Coulson's canny approach helped Cameron get elected last year, and he was installed as the government's chief spokesman. But in January, he resigned from that job too when it became clear that phone hacking had been routine when he was The News of the World's editor. In Parliament, Labour leader Miliband assailed Cameron for a: "catastrophic error of judgment by bringing Andy Coulson into the heart of his Downing Street machine. "
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