Phone Hacking Scandal Shuts Down News of the World

Jul 7, 2011, 11:56 by R.E. Christian

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said Thursday it will close News of the World, the London tabloid at the center of a phone-hacking scandal.

James Murdoch, Rupert's son and a top executive in his company, said the paper will publish its last edition Sunday with no advertising, The New York Times reported. The paper, which focuses on sex, celebrity and crime, publishes only on Sundays.

The announcement follows revelations in The Guardian that a private investigator working for the tabloid not only hacked into the cell phone of a missing 13-year-old girl but deleted messages. The activity on her phone led her parents to believe, wrongly, she was still alive.

The paper has also been linked to hacking targeting the families of other slain girls, victims of the 2005 London Transport bombings and soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The backlash has been ferocious, with major companies pulling ads. It has also threatened Murdoch's takeover of Sky News.

As many as five journalists and executives from News of the World are expected to be arrested, The Independent reported. The arrests would be in addition to the detentions of three other newspaper employees, The Independent said.

Britain's Office of Communications, which regulates British telecommunication industries, was "closely monitoring" allegations of widespread criminality at Murdoch's News Corp. subsidiary News International Ltd., which owns the News of the World.

The regulator, similar to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, said it wanted to make sure Murdoch and his top executives were "fit and proper persons" to control British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, Britain's Independent newspaper reported Thursday.

Murdoch wants to buy the 60.9 percent he doesn't already own.

The private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, was accused in 2006 of intercepting voice mail messages left for members of the royal family. The latest revelations come from documents seized by police at that time.

Due to the nature of the allegations, Britain's Defense Ministry also opened an investigation, a ministry official said.

Among the families possibly tapped are those of Sgt. Steven Roberts, whose lack of body armor was found to have contributed to his death; Lance Cpl. Matty Hull, killed by friendly fire; and British troops killed in the crash of a U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight assault transport helicopter in Kuwait, police said.

News International responded, saying its support for the armed services was "impeccable" and it would be "absolutely appalled and horrified" if the claims were true.

Prime Minister David Cameron agreed Wednesday to launch a public inquiry into the growing number of alleged voice mail interceptions.

And the Metropolitan Police opened an investigation into alleged improper payments News International may have made to police -- in addition to the phone-hacking inquiry.

Murdoch, 80, News Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer, condemned the alleged reporting tactics that have sparked the mess. He called the claims of hacking and payments to police officers "deplorable and unacceptable."

Source: UPI