End of the World
Trust in the press, police and politicians has been seriously damaged by revelations over phone hacking and bribery at the News of the World. Can these agents be trusted again?
At the time of writing, twelve people so far have been arrested; another journalist has committed suicide; there has been a tense government inquiry watched by millions; two of Britain’s most senior police officers have resigned; and backbenchers are baying for a probe into Prime Minister David Cameron’s previous choice of Andy Coulson as communications director.
This is some of the continuing fallout from the phone hacking scandal that enveloped the former News of the World (NotW) newspaper. The scandal has also brought allegations that September 11 victims had their phones hacked into, allegations that the FBI are taking very seriously.
The apparent depth of this illegal activity was only revealed days after the BSkyB takeover deal by Rupert Murdoch’s News International (NI) was agreed. That bid was dropped — along with NI’s share price.
Mr Cameron was forced to take political action because of the alleged involvement of his former aide, Andy Coulson, who was editor of the NotW in 2007 when the hacking scandal started.
It took days of intense media pressure for Murdoch senior to allow Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of NI, to resign. Other resignations are expected, as further investigations may yet substantiate that senior staff at the NotW paid up to £100,000 to certain police officers for access to restricted files, and to private eyes to conduct illegal phone and computer hacking.
Sara Payne, mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, had supported the NotW and wrote a column in its last issue on 10 June. One month later, she was ‘devastated’ to discover that she too may have been hacked by a private investigator hired by the tabloid.
The parliamentary inquiry in July probed Murdoch senior, who sat like a rabbit transfixed in headlights, and his son James. They both denied knowledge of the depth of the sordid affair.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has written to Murdoch junior, former NotW editor Colin Myler and the tabloid’s former legal manager Tom Crone to clarify apparent inconsistencies in their evidence.
MPs have also written to law firm Harbottle & Lewis to see if it can provide further evidence about the extent of the phone-hacking scandal, now that News International has relaxed the confidentiality clauses in its contract.
Mr Cameron said, ‘People trust the police to protect them, politicians to represent them and the press to inform them. All have let people down. On my watch, this stops’.
But it has not stopped. As Parliament went into recess, questions remain unanswered. Did senior NI executives know what was going on? How wide has corruption spread among the police? Were other newspapers involved? Will Mr Cameron’s public rating recover?
Some Christians believe pursuing secular journalism as a career is wrong, even telling this author that it is a ‘godless industry’. Perhaps many people in it are godless, but God needs his people in the front line to mitigate wickedness and prevent it wherever possible. The UK is losing faith in the care system, police, banks, media and Government.
Where else can we look but to God, on whose shoulders is the rule of this world? And it will be God who will edit history’s final page.