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Phone hacking: Rusbridger answers questions on the ‘dark arts’ of Fleet Street

July 7th, 2011Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

This afternoon Alan Rusbridger has been answering questions from readers in the form of a live Q & A on the Guardian website.

The post quickly gathered a heap of comments – more than pages worth, below are Rusbridger’s replies to questions about whether hacking has been going on at other newspapers, media regulation and politicians’ reactions.

Question: Oborne goes on to allege you also warned Nick Clegg about Coulson’s activities. Is this true? If so, what were Cameron and Clegg told that is now in the public domain? What have they known all along?

Rusbridger: Peter Oborne is right. Before the election it was common knowledge in Fleet Street that an investigator used by the NotW during Andy Coulson’s editorship was on remand for conspiracy to murder. We couldn’t report that due to contempt of court restrictions, but I thought it right that Cameron should know before he took any decisions about taking Andy Coulson into Number 10. So I sent word via an intermediary close to Cameron. And I also told Clegg personally.

Question: Does the Guardian have any evidence of phone hacking happening at other British newspapers? If so, once the dust settles over NotW, will the Guardian widen its continuing investigation to these papers, too?

Rusbridger: I think the bulk of Nick Davies’s evidence relates to the NotW. He did write a more general chapter on the so-called dark arts of Fleet Street in his book, Flat Earth News

To be frank, it’s taken him all this time to land this one, so he’s hardly had time to look elsewhere so far.

Question: The past few days have had me genuinely wondering about what, if any, licensing requirements there are on running a newspaper.

If a broadcaster had been up to what the NotW were doing it would quite rightly have been pulled off the air. So what exactly does a newspaper have to do to lose its right to publish in the UK?

Rusbridger: I’m anxious about the notion of state licensing for the press. We got rid of that more than 150 years ago (date, someone?) and I wouldn’t want to see it back. In an age when anyone can call themselves a journalist I see difficulties of definition. Would Huffington Post have to get a licence? So, I think it’s probably unworkable as well as undesirable. But I’d be interested to hear other views.

Read the full thread of comments and questions here.

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