None of this morning's tabloids have led on the News of the World Milly Dowler phone hack scandal; could this be because they're all complicit, asks Shamik Das?
Grubby newspaper investigators, clearly acting under orders of those above, hack into the voicemail of a missing schoolgirl – interfering in a criminal investigation – delete some messages, so they can listen to more, give the family of the missing schoolgirl false hope, then interview the parents of the schoolgirl, all so they can sell a few more copies of their rag.
A scandal, right? Worthy of coverage? Maybe even the chance for the paper’s stable mate and some of the other cheapsheets to say ‘sorry’ and take a long, hard, look at themselves?
It’s a story you definitely won’t read all about in any of this morning’s tabloids, who, in a risible, if totally expected conspiracy of silence, choose instead to lead on the relationship between a vain, vacuous ‘celebrity’ and a millionaire, (and the relationship between Ashley Cole and some singer), and, almost as an afterthought, the tragic death of a soldier in Afghanistan.
On last night’s Newsnight, Labour MP Tom Watson, who’s been leading the campaign for accountability for News International, said of the silence:
“Well, can you believe it… They were very happy to put the Dowler family on the front pages during the case.”
And of the wider scandal, he added:
“Well I think the PR people at News International have done quite a good job of persuading people this is just about celebrity tittle-tattle; that’s been disspelled tonight.
“Part of the problem is, I think many people in the country will just be learning this story because the other scandal about the scandal is newspapers of repute have refused to report the facts of the case as it’s been revealed through three parliamentary inquiries and three police inquiries.”
While looking ahead at the scandals yet to emerge, he revealed:
“A number of whistleblowers have talked to me, privately, and I think there is a very strong suspicion that at least one of the parents of the children that were murdered by Ian Huntley at Soham have also been a target of News of the World.”
Wider still, today’s Guardian reports that Colin Stagg, who was wrongly accused of murdering Rachel Nickell, is another victim of phone hacking.
Writing about the sheer magnitude of the scandal, and how press regulation can be reformed, Evgeny Lebedev says in The Guardian:
“This is one of the biggest scandals in public life for decades, and yet our response has been weak. The police have been slow to react, which may be linked to their close ties with those media companies. Sir Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, recently said he would rather his men were investigating more serious crimes like robbery. But isn’t the theft of private information still theft?
“And if the Press Complaints Commission is fit for purpose, its recent conduct is not proof of that… I would like to take steps with other newspaper proprietors over the coming months to see if we can collectively improve things.
“Working with other owners, we can ensure that the regulations we have in place are more effective, that our laws catch up with the digital revolution, and that our journalists uphold the highest standards in ethical journalism. Nothing less than the reputation of Britain’s media is at stake.”
Writing in the Indy, meanwhile, Ian Burrell says Rebekah Brooks “has some explaining to do”:
“When Rebekah Brooks edited the News of the World, her time at the helm of Britain’s biggest tabloid was characterised by one issue above all others. The paper’s aggressive campaigning for a “Sarah’s Law”, designed to protect Britain’s young people from the clutches of predatory offenders, garnered international attention but provoked street riots as the public reacted to the tabloid’s policy of “naming and shaming” paedophiles.
“The campaign, which went to the heart of every parent’s greatest fear – the abduction of a child – was a response to the murder in 2000 of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by the serial offender Roy Whiting.
“But when another young girl, Milly Dowler, 13, went missing less than two years later it seems that the response of the News of the World was to hack into the voicemail of her mobile phone, almost certainly after Milly had been murdered by the serial killer Levi Bellfield. Those actions, including the deleting of messages, gave false hope to Milly’s parents that she was still alive and hampered the police’s investigation.”
And on the politics behind the scandal, Political Scrapbook reports that Brooks only survived as News of the World editor “after Cameron intervened with Murdoch”, while the BBC’s Business Editor Robert Peston says News Corporation may now face a “fit-and-proper test” which will determine whether it’s permitted to take control of BSkyB, an adjudication culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was due to make this week.
Much to report, many angles to pursue… are the tabloids so quiet because they’re complicit?