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This article was first published 12 years ago  » News » Hacking scandal: Report by MP panel blasts Rupert Murdoch

Hacking scandal: Report by MP panel blasts Rupert Murdoch

By Prasun Sonwalkar
May 01, 2012 20:48 IST
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In a damning report, a key parliamentary committee in the United Kingdom on Tuesday concluded that media baron Rupert Murdoch misled Parliament and was "not a fit person" to exercise the stewardship of a major international company in the wake of the phone-hacking controversy.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that investigated the issue at length and heard evidence from Rupert Murdoch, 81, and his son James Murdoch last year, severely criticised Murdoch and his company.

Tom Watson, a member of the committee, said the two Murdochs misled parliament through their deposition before the committee, and reiterated the committee's conclusion that Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to be at the helm of a major international company.

The committee's conclusion is expected to contribute to the ongoing inquiry by regulator Ofcom on whether Murdoch's BSkyB is a 'fit and proper' organisation to hold a broadcasting license in Britain.

The committee said, "On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee we conclude that if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications".

"This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," it added.

In its 125-page report, the committee said, "The notion that -- given all that had gone on, right back to evidence given over payments to the police to our predecessor Committee in
2003 -- a hands-on proprietor like Rupert Murdoch had no inkling that wrongdoing and questionable practice was not widespread at the News of the World is simply not credible".

"Given his evidently fearsome reputation, the reluctance of News International employees to be open and honest internally and in their evidence to the committee is readily understandable," it said.

"In assessing their evidence, the culture emanating from the top must be taken into account, and is likely to have had a profound effect on their approach in 2007 and 2009 in
evidence given to the committee," it added.

The committee of MPs began its inquiry in July 2011 in the wake of fresh newspaper revelations about the extent of hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, with reported victims including the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the families of victims of the 7/7 London bombings.

After initially claiming that malpractice was limited to one "rogue" reporter at the News of the World, News International has now settled dozens of civil cases admitting liability for hacking between 2001 and 2006.

More than 6,000 possible victims have been identified and the police have so far made a number of arrests in connection with an investigation reopened in January 2011 -- although no charges have yet been brought.

In another key conclusion, the committee report said, "Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth".

"Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators, as they also professed they would do after the criminal convictions," it said.

 In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited willful blindness, for which the companies' directors -- including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch -- should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility," it added.

Meanwhile, News Corporation has issued a statement which says the company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World.

"News Corporation is carefully reviewing the Select Committee's report and will respond shortly. The company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologises to everyone whose privacy was invaded," it said.

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Prasun Sonwalkar
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