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Murdoch moves to reassure UK tabloid staff
Media tycoon arrives to ease fears at newspaper wracked by arrests linked to ongoing corruption investigation.
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2012 14:06
Rupert Murdoch's media empire

Rupert Murdoch has visited the offices of his British tabloid The Sun amid journalists' anger following the arrests of 10 current and former staff over allegations of bribing public officials.

Murdoch entered the headquarters of his British newspaper division in Wapping, east London, on Friday to take charge of the latest crisis in his media empire.

Al Jazeera's Sonia Gallego, reporting from London, said the message attached to Murdoch's abrupt arrival was clear: "It shows he will do whatever he can to save the newspaper."

Even so, she said, that there were some "very angry reporters" in the Sun office.

"Many of them are furious after some of their colleagues were arrested as part of a corruption investigation," she said.

Murdoch, 80, arrived in Britain on Thursday, seven months after he took the decision to shut down the The Sun's sister paper, News of the World, amid a scandal over phone hacking.

Arrests continue

Despite fears that Murdoch could also close the The Sun to "protect the brand" of his US-based News Corporation empire, he is expected to seek to reassure an angry newsroom that he is committed to publishing the tabloid.

The Sun sells 2.5 million copies a day, making it the biggest-selling title in a crowded British newspaper market.

Police arrested five journalists last weekend as well as a defence ministry official, a member of the armed forces and a policeman over allegations that reporters paid officials for information.

Four current and former Sun employees were also arrested in January, and another in November.

Journalists at the paper are furious at the role of News Corp in the arrests, which were sparked by information passed to police by a committee set up by the company in response to the phone-hacking furore.

The Management and Standards Committee (MSC), based at the Wapping headquarters, has pored over thousands of emails and documents.

'Total commitment'

Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper division, News International, has told staff that the tycoon had personally reassured him about his "total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun".

However, a former editor of another of Murdoch's British papers, The Sunday Times, warned that his ex-boss would do "whatever it takes" to protect the reputation of his empire in the face of concerns from US investors.

"At the moment, it looks like he's prepared to sacrifice the journalists and journalism in London to do whatever it takes to be seen to be cleaning up his act so that it will play better in the US," Andrew Neil told CNN.

The National Union of Journalists said Sun employees had been in contact to discuss taking legal action against the paper's owners.

Journalists defended

Geoffrey Robertson, a leading human rights lawyer, said in a commentary this week in The Times, also owned by Murdoch, that journalists have a right under the Human Rights Act to protect confidential sources.

The Sun's associate editor, Trevor Kavanagh, condemned the arrests as a "witch-hunt", in an article on Monday which criticised both the police and News Corp.

News Corp, of which Murdoch is founder and chairman, set up the MSC last year to search for "unacceptable news gathering practices" in all its British newspaper titles.

It was forced to act after the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World, which was shut down in July after evidence emerged that its journalists had hacked the voicemails of hundreds of people over several years.

News International is still fighting allegations of a cover-up.

The scandal sparked police operations into phone hacking, bribing public officials and email hacking, while David Cameron, UK prime minister, also ordered a judge-led inquiry into the practices and ethics of the press.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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