Chairman of News International, James Murdoch, was yesterday (21 July) seemingly forced to defend evidence he gave to the culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday, after it was called into question by two former employees – ex-News of the World editor Colin Myler and lawyer Tom Crone.
According to reports, last night Crone and Myler released a statement seeking to “clarify” a significant piece of Murdoch’s evidence.
In the committee session, MP Tom Watson had asked James Murdoch if, when he signed off a settlement payment to Gordon Taylor, he had seen or was made aware of an email “suggesting hacking was more widespread than had been admitted”. And James Murdoch replied no, “I was not aware of that at the time”.
But in their statement, Myler and Crone claim his recollection of what he was told “was mistaken”.
In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers.
Following Myler and Crone’s statement, Murdoch issues a single line statement: “I stand behind my testimony to the select committee.”
According to a BBC report, Watson has said he will now ask police to investigate this evidence, while committee chair John Whittingdale, was quoted as saying that it will be asking Murdoch to respond and clarify this.
Mr Davies: If you say to [Andy] Coulson, “Come and give evidence even though you are no longer an editor” and if he says, “No” then that is an interesting tactical failure on his part. It is not just the editor of the paper; what about the managing editor? Why not call Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor of the News of the World, who has been there for years and who has a special responsibility for contracts and money? Why not call him to give evidence? There was a real will on the part of the PCC to avoid uncovering the truth about phone hacking.”
The PCC is now looking at the case again in light of Nick Davies’ exclusive report for the Guardian and could re-open the investigation. So who will they question?
Stuart Kuttner, as Davies suggested? “Kuttner will remain at the News of the World part time to work on special projects for the tabloid, including its Sarah’s Law campaign,” the Guardian reported yesterday.
The PCC decided not to question former News of the World editor Andy Coulson (as we write, he is still the Conservative Party’s communications director) for its 2007 inquiry, citing that he was not longer ‘answerable to the PCC’. But would they question Kuttner, in his new part-time role?
“Despite Mr Myler’s [new News of the World editor] appointment, the question arose whether the PCC should ask Mr Coulson to give an account of what had gone wrong. The PCC decided not to do so. Given that the PCC does not – and should not – have statutory powers of investigation and prosecution, there could be no question of trying to duplicate the lengthy police investigation. Furthermore, Mr Coulson was, following his resignation, no longer answerable to the PCC, whose jurisdiction covers journalists working for publications that subscribe to the self-regulatory system through the Press Standards Board of Finance.
“As a result, that part of the investigation involving the News of the World was conducted by the Director of the PCC with Mr Myler. The Chairman of the Commission also discussed the matter on a number of occasions with the Chief Executive of News International, Mr Les Hinton.”
“Any suggestion that further transgressions have occurred since its report was published in 2007 will be investigated without delay. In the meantime, the PCC is contacting the Guardian newspaper and the Information Commissioner for any further specific information in relation to the claims, published today about the older cases, which suggest the Commission has been misled at any stage of its inquiries into these matters.”
Unsurprisingly Myler and News Group Newspapers’ lawyer Tom Crone were questioned about the Max Mosley case – though, as a new writ has been issued against the paper by Mosley, some responses had to be curtailed.
Nevertheless, some good nuggets from Myler and Crone on the consequences of publishing the story and why the NOTW broke it:
The costs of the Mosley trial came to around £900,000 with £100,000 damages, according to Crone.
“Mr Mosley made quite a case that he’d never sought publicity, that he was a private person. I disagree with that fundamentally.
“For a man in his position (…) who so wrecklessly put himself in the hands of five prostitutes (…) you have to say you played some part in your own downfall.”
Myler: “Rarely in these situations are there any commercial benefits despite what people might think.”
A family newspaper: “I don’t agree that it was an unsuitable story for a family newspaper. Some people might sneer and say that we are scurrilous and scaberous but we are who we are. I make no apologies for publishing that story as editor.
Chilling effect of Mosley case? “I don’t think it’s had a chilling effect. It’s had a very practical effect on me as an editor and how you conduct yourself (…) I spend as much time talking to lawyers as I do journalists.
“It doesn’t mean to say that you shy away, it means that you have to be equally diligent, efficient and careful and get very good legal advice.”
Myler also went on to discuss the issue of ‘celebrity stings’ by the NOTW, saying that while journalist Mazher Mahmood was widely known as the ‘fake sheikh’, he is also ‘one of the most professional newspaper journalists in the world’.
“He has been responsible for convicting and jailing 232 criminals. This is a man that puts himself in great danger and does so with such a professional aplomb that any media organisation would be proud to be associated with it,” he said.
Mahmood’s talents, said Myler, as increasingly being used for stories on immigration and religious radicalism: “There is some serious journalism within the News of the World.”
Well, we could have brought you ‘Flocking Around the Twitmas Tree’, ‘We Three Nings’ or just a straightforward end of the year list (if only to add to our list of lists), but instead we chose this: your sing-along treat to round-up 2008 is the ‘Twelve Days of Online Media Christmas’ (hyperlinked to relevant stories, but bear in mind it’s a selection of picks and not comprehensive…).
On the first day of Christmas my feed read’r brought to me … An editor in a law court
… Nine strikers strikin’, Eight maps a-plotting, Seven pipes a-mashing, Six sites out-linking, Five Tweeeeeetin’ friends, Four journo forums, Three web gaffes, Two arrested hacks, And an editor in a law court!
On the eleventh day of Christmas my feed read’r brought to me … Eleven papers packing
… Ten blogs a-blooming, Nine strikers strikin’, Eight maps a-plotting, Seven pipes a-mashing, Six sites out-linking, Five Tweeeeeetin’ friends, Four journo forums, Three web gaffes, Two arrested hacks, And an editor in a law court!
On the twelfth day of Christmas my feed read’r brought to me … Twelve sites a-starting
… Eleven papers packing, Ten blogs a-blooming, Nine strikers strikin’, Eight maps a-plotting, Seven pipes a-mashing, Six sites out-linking, Five Tweeeeeetin’ friends, Four journo forums, Three web gaffes, Two arrested hacks and an editor in a law court!