Murdoch summoned to testify in hacking probe

Summons issued by British parliamentary committee investigating phone-hacking scandal at media baron's newspapers.


    Rebecca Brooks, the chief executive of News International, has agreed to testify next week [GALLO/GETTY]

    British parliamentary committee investigating the country's newspaper phone-hacking scandal will issue a summons seeking to compel Rupert Murdoch to attend.

    Murdoch, the chief executive of US-based News Corporation, the parent company of News International, whose newspapers in the UK are under investigation for hacking, has declined to appear before the committee next week, the committee said on Thursday.

    Murdoch said his son James Murdoch, a senior executive with News International, could appear at the hearing at a later date, while Rebekah Brooks, the company's chief executive, has agreed to testify.

    The House of Commons committee on culture, media and sport will hold hearings next week about the scandal that has brought down the News of the World, one of Murdoch's UK newspapers, and wrecked his bid to buy broadcaster BSkyB.

    In the widening investigation into phone hacking, Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor of the News of the World, was arrested on Thursday.

    Nick Clegg, Britain's deputy prime minister, said Murdoch had big questions to answer about accusations of eavesdropping and police bribery at his British papers, which have forced him to drop his bid to take full control of BSkyB.

    "If they have any shred of sense of responsibility or accountability for their position of power, then they should come and explain themselves before a select committee," Clegg said in an interview with BBC radio.

    He said it was unclear whether the committee could compel attendance by Murdoch, who is a US citizen.

    News International made no immediate comment.

    Latest suspect

    The latest suspect arrested in the case, Wallis, worked from 2003 to 2007 under Andy Coulson, the former editor who was arrested on July 8 and freed on bail until October.

    Coulson was the communications director of David Cameron, the UK prime minister, from 2007 until his resignation in January this year over the scandal.

    Metropolitan Police said Wallis was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications. They did not confirm that it was Wallis.

    The phone hacking scandal forced News International to shut down the News of the World last week [GALLO/GETTY]

    Police have so far arrested seven people for questioning in their investigation of phone hacking and two others in a separate investigation of alleged bribery of police officers. No one has been charged.

    Murdoch's hope of making BSkyB a wholly owned part of his News Corporation empire collapsed on Wednesday in the face of what Cameron called a "firestorm" that has engulfed media, police and politicians.

    Cameron has appointed a judge for a wide-ranging inquiry into the News of the World scandal and wider issues of media regulation.

    The inquiry will also look into the relationship between politicians and media and the possibility that illegal practices are more widely employed in the industry.

    "It clearly goes beyond News International," Clegg said.

    "It is clearly something much more systemic," Clegg said. "I don't think we should allow ourselves to believe that it is just because of the Murdochs, or Rebekah Brooks, or it's all about one commercial transaction, however significant."

    Shares in BSkyB steadied on Thursday, rising 0.6 per cent to $11.43 in early trading in London. The shares closed higher on Wednesday for the first time since they began falling sharply last week amid fresh phone hacking allegations.

    The News Corporation bid for BSkyB unravelled quickly after the Guardian newspaper reported that the News of The World had hacked into the phone of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002.

    The paper said the hacking may have impeded a police investigation into the 13-year-old's disappearance.

    Across the Atlantic, US politicians are paying close attention to allegations reported in British media that journalists working for Murdoch may have hacked into the phones of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, as Al Jazeera's John Terrett reports from Washington DC.

    Murdoch's US-based media outlets include the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Fox News TV Channel.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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