Tuesday News Review

Brown systematically targeted

The crisis engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire dramatically worsened last night when it was claimed that private investigators working for The Sun and The Sunday Times targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown. In another extraordinary day in the phone-hacking scandal, News International’s denials that illicit newsgathering techniques stretched beyond the News of the World came under strain in the face of well-sourced claims that two of its other best-selling titles were also involved in serious wrongdoing. As Scotland Yard launched a fierce attack on News International for undermining its new inquiry into the alleged bribery of police officers by reporters, it was claimed that private investigators for Britain’s largest newspaper group attempted to access Mr Brown’s phone, medical records and bank account. – the Independent

Medical records disclosing that Gordon Brown’s infant son had cystic fibrosis were illegally obtained by The Sun newspaper as part of a News International campaign against him and his family, friends of the former prime minister claims. Mr Brown was a repeated target for investigators working for the tabloid and its sister newspapers, The Sunday Times and the News of the World, it was alleged. The newspapers obtained highly personal medical and financial information about him and his family. The most emotive claim relates to Mr Brown’s son, Fraser, diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2006, soon after his birth. His condition was disclosed on The Sun’s website in November 2006, when he was four months old. Mr Brown and his wife, Sarah, had only recently learned of their son’s condition, which often leads to a shortened lifespan. They were dismayed the paper had details of his illness. – the Telegraph

Journalists from across News International repeatedly targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown, attempting to access his voicemail and obtaining information from his bank account and legal file as well as his family’s medical records. There is also evidence that a private investigator used a serving police officer to trawl the police national computer for information about him. That investigator also targeted another Labour MP who was the subject of hostile inquiries by the News of the World, but it is not confirmed whether News International was specifically involved in trawling police computers for information on Brown. Separately, Brown’s tax paperwork was taken from his accountant’s office apparently by hacking into the firm’s computer. This was passed to another newspaper. Brown was targeted during a period of more than 10 years, both as chancellor of the exchequer and as prime minister. Some of the activity clearly was illegal. – the Telegraph

Further accusations of cover up

A dossier of 300 emails, allegedly implicating staff and senior executives in illegal activity, was presented to detectives at a meeting on June 20. But it has now emerged that the emails were in the possession of News International’s troubleshooting team, led by Will Lewis, in April. Crucial evidence of widespread phone hacking and illegal payments to police officers, was allegedly discovered during an internal trawl of emails that began after the News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman was arrested in 2006. More than 2,500 emails, which could implicate staff and senior executives in alleged wrong doing, were collected during the review. But when representatives from the newspaper met with Scotland Yard detectives last month the dossier of evidence handed to detectives contained just 300 emails. In addition it is also unclear whether a large amount of information – extracted by lawyers acting for News International from jailed private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s financial records – has been made available to detectives. The company has already faced criticism over the fact that crucial emails identified four years have only just been handed to police. – the Telegraph

A leader is born

This time last week we reported that, nine months after becoming leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband had so dismally failed to make his mark that Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership of the Conservative Party was looking good by comparison. What a difference seven days make. For the first time since the two first faced each other across the despatch box, Mr Miliband is regularly besting David Cameron. He grasped, before the Prime Minister, how the Milly Dowler allegations had transformed the phone-hacking scandal in the public mind. He lost no chance to remind the Conservative leader of the liability that his former media chief, Andy Coulson, represented, hammering home the point about poor judgement. By taking the battle to Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband has almost magicked away New Labour’s 13-year courtship of Rupert Murdoch, while stamping his own authority on what he is presenting as post-Murdoch politics. So far, so good. The country needs a strong opposition, and Mr Cameron has had it easy hitherto. Now, Mr Miliband must show he can keep up the pressure, even when the opportunities are less obvious than this. – the Independent

Mandelson: we should have done more to reform the press

It should be a source of regret for everyone associated with the last Labour government that the only action in relation to the media for which we will be remembered is going to war with the BBC following the Iraq invasion in 2003. Of course, Downing Street hated the negativity of the press – what government wouldn’t? – but to say that, with all our other priorities, the prime minister decided that reform of the press would have to take a back seat is far-fetched. The truth is, no issue of priority or principle was involved. We simply chose to be cowed because we were too fearful to do otherwise. And David Cameron took up where Tony Blair and Gordon Brown left off. It has taken the News International crisis for politicians to discover their courage. Now they have to ensure that it is not primarily they who are protected from the “feral beast”, but the public. This requires not statutory regulation but a robust, independent process to enable individuals to make right the falsehoods that slip through, or slander that sometimes gets pumped out by news rooms in the name of “press freedom”. – the Guardian

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