The voicemail hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's Sunday tabloid News of the World appeared to threaten Prime Minister David Cameron's government Tuesday as it emerged that News International, the umbrella group for Murdoch's news operations in the U.K., had turned over to investigators details of payments made by the tabloid to senior police officers between 2003 and 2007. That was a period when Andy Coulson served as the paper's editor. Police commissioner Paul Stephenson confirmed in a statement that the documents "include information relating to alleged inappropriate payments to a small number of MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] officers." In reporting the development, Britain's Guardian newspaper commented that it "brings the crisis closer to the door of the prime minister, David Cameron, who appointed Coulson as his director of communications." Several critics have charged that the appointment was a political favor to Murdoch, who supported Cameron in last year's election and who may have wanted to have an insider at Downing Street. The latest development comes one day after it was revealed that a private investigator working for the tabloid hacked into the cellphone of a murdered girl after she went missing. That revelation touched off an uproar that exceeded any about previous revelations that the phones of British TV and film stars (like Jude Law and Hugh Grant) and British politicians had been hacked. Early today, Murdoch issued a statement saying, "Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the News of the World are deplorable and unacceptable. I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively cooperate with the police in all investigations." A petition calling for the government to halt Murdoch's takeover of BSkyB satellite service had collected over 374,000 by this morning. In an editorial this morning, The Guardian urged Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to "put the decision on ice." The takeover, said the newspaper, "simply doesn't pass the Common sense 'bad smell' test." Referring to the hundreds of thousands of pounds that the news organization has paid to settle individual lawsuits brought against it by victims of the hacking, the newspaper said, "The people at the head of News International are the same people who paid hush money to conceal evidence of criminal behavior of its employees and about the governance of the company ... and who ... according to the [Press Complaints Committee] chair, Peta Buscombe, lied to the regulator."

06/07/2011