Censored? Media silence over latest Coulson claims

Tonight's Dispatches programme, to be screened at 8:00 on Channel Four, makes further allegations against David Cameron - yet the media has hardly reported it.

Tonight’s Dispatches programme, to be screened at 8:00 on Channel Four, makes further, potentially fatal allegations against David Cameron’s director of communications Andy Coulson. But despite being press released well in advance, hardly any media outlets are running the story – it only appears in the Guardian, Mail, Independent and New Statesman. Not even the BBC is covering it.

Dispatches alleges that, while editor of the News of the World, Mr Coulson listenened to intercepted voicemail messages on the mobile phones of prominent figures – a claim he has always denied. Indeed, Mr Coulson denies even knowing the intercepts were being carried out. The claims are made by a former senior journalist at the paper.

The witness claims:

“Andy was a very good editor. he was very conscientious and he wouldn’t let stories pass unless he was sure they were correct… so, if the evidence that a reporter had was a recorded phone message, that would be what Andy would know about.

“So you’d have to say: ‘Yes, there’s a recorded message.’ You go and either play it to him or show him a transcript of it, in order to satisfy him that… it wasn’t made up… It was fairly common – not so common that everybody was doing it. But the people who did know how to do it would do it regularly.”

This morning, Labour MP Tom Watson wrote to the prime minister calling on him to suspend Mr Coulson while further investigations are carried out. He writes:

…I think it is necessary for you to make a statement in Parliament on this matter next week. If a government minister were to be the subject of similar allegations, they would be forced to stand down immediately while an investigation is carried out. We are now at the point where I firmly believe you should consider a similar course of action with regards to Mr Coulson’s conduct.

I am sure you would agree misleading a parliamentary committee of the House of Commons is a very serious matter, and therefore these allegations need to be investigated. Parliament and the public would expect nothing less from you.

When appearing before the culture, media and sport select committee in July 2009, Mr Coulson had said:

“I was, as you know, editor of the News of the World for four years from January 2003 until January 2007. During that time I never condoned the use of phone hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where phone hacking took place.”

This is not the first time potentially damaging stories about Mr Coulson have been ignored by the BBC and the Murdoch empire. Last month, Left Foot Forward reported the media silence over similar claims about his involvement in phone tapping made in the New York Times. Aside from the hacking scandal, Mr Coulson’s tenure at the News of the World has been dogged by claims of bullying, of “the venom of Andy Coulson”.

Dispatches: Tabloids, Tories and Telephone Hacking airs tonight at 8:00 on Channel Four, and is available to view online on 4oD soon after.

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