February 28, 2024

James Murdoch to Be Called Before Parliament Again

Committee officials said they expected to schedule the hearing for November, and a spokeswoman for Mr. Murdoch said he would comply. “James Murdoch is happy to appear in front of the committee again to answer any further questions members might have,” she said.

The committee’s decision seemed likely to bring further drama to an unfolding story that has reached deep into British society, raising questions about the behavior and power of the press and the once-intimate cross-ties between the media, the political elite and the police.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons select committee investigating the scandal, told Sky News that Mr. Murdoch, 38, would be recalled after the committee had heard testimony from Les Hinton, a former top executive at The News Corporation, and Mark Lewis, a lawyer representing individuals who were targets of the phone hacking.

Mr. Hinton, who became the chairman of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal after the paper was acquired by the News Corporation, was the most senior Murdoch executive to quit as the hacking scandal unfolded this summer. Mr. Whittingdale said he expected James Murdoch to appear at the inquiry for a second hearing as part of the committee’s efforts to tie up “one or two loose ends” left after earlier testimony. In testimony last week, former News Corporation executives disputed Mr. Murdoch’s claims that he was unaware of widespread phone hacking at his papers.

Another major figure in the investigation, Andy Coulson, a former editor of the Murdoch-owned tabloid The News of the World who later served as Prime Minister David Cameron’s media director, told the committee through his lawyers last week that he would not accept an invitation to testify again because of concerns about the potential impact on a police investigation into the scandal and a separate judge-led inquiry appointed by the government. Mr. Coulson, who resigned from the prime minister’s staff in January, is one of more than a dozen former editors, reporters, lawyers and executives from the Murdoch newspapers in Britain who have been arrested in recent months. All were released on bail after hours of intensive questioning, pending decisions by prosecutors on whether to bring charges.

In another development, The Guardian newspaper reported that lawyers for the News Corporation’s British newspaper group, News International, had told a court hearing on Tuesday that the company had discovered “two very large new caches” of documents and e-mails in its archive that could contain evidence of the scale of phone hacking by The News of the World. A judge preparing to hear civil cases arising from the phone hacking told a high court hearing that there was “some important material” in the new archive, whose discovery followed on a previous instance in which a huge tranche of e-mails potentially relevant to the investigations were found by the Murdoch papers after initially being reported lost.

The scandal over unlawful intercepts of voice mail has been rumbling for several years, but it built to crisis pitch this summer with reports that The News of the World ordered the hacking of the phone of Milly Dowler, an abducted teenager who was found murdered in an outer London suburb in 2002. As the scandal exploded this summer, News International closed down the newspaper after 168 years of publication, causing dozens of reporters, editors and other staff members to lose their jobs.

The Murdoch family was drawn personally into the inquiry in mid-July when the House of Commons committee on culture, media and sport questioned both Rupert and James Murdoch, with both men expressing regret over the phone hacking but denying any knowledge that it had been a widespread pattern before the rush of revelations this year.. The hearings resumed last week when two former senior employees of News International appeared before the committee to challenge James Murdoch’s version of events.

Their testimony centered on a 15-minute meeting in London in 2008 when, they said, James Murdoch, chief of the News Corporation’s European and Asian operations, was told that the hacking of voice mail was more widespread than the company had acknowledged. It was on this basis, they said, that Mr. Murdoch approved an out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, a leading soccer executive whose voice mail had been hacked, that eventually ran to $1.4 million, including legal costs. But that account has been disputed by Mr. Murdoch, who has denied that he was told at the 2008 meeting that there was a wider pattern of hacking involved.

The News Corporation has maintained for years that the hacking was an isolated affair carried out by a “rogue” reporter, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. Both men served jail terms in 2007 related to phone hacking. But some members of the parliamentary committee have focused on the payout to Mr. Taylor as evidence of an attempt to “cover up” the affair.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/world/europe/14hacking.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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