Tonight Channel 4 will broadcast its Dispatches programme with new allegations about Andy Coulson and phone-hacking at the News of the World. One of the most chilling elements will be the claim that politicians and police have been too afraid to speak out against News International.
Writing about the programme in today’s Guardian, Nick Davies says:
Adam Price, one of the MPs from the media select committee, which last year investigated the phone-hacking scandal, described how he stopped voting to compel News International’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, to be called as a witness.
“I was told by a senior Conservative member of the committee, who I know was in direct contact with executives at News International, that if we went for her, they would go for us – effectively that they would delve into our personal lives in order to punish …..
The Labour MP Tom Watson said he was threatened in 2006 after he called for Tony Blair to resign at a time when News International was supporting him. “A very senior News International journalist told me that Rebekah would never forgive me for what I did and that she would pursue me through parliament for the rest of my time as an MP.”
It doesn’t stop with politicians. Brian Paddick, former deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, suggested that his former colleagues’ decision to cut short their original investigation may have been influenced by their links with the News of the World. There are questions over whether Andy Hayman, the then assistant commissioner in charge of the investigation, was himself a target of the paper.
If these allegations are accurate, they display a gross infringement of democracy, whereby our politicians and police are coerced, threatened and effectively blackmailed. At the very least, no one will deny the existence of a climate of fear that intimidates individuals from speaking out against questionable practices.
What this demonstrates is the need for ordinary members of the public to come together in campaigns like this, that seek to curb the pervasive power of the media empires. As we have said repeatedly, there must be a media commission on ownership.