Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: phone

Phone hacking

On 19/7/2011 at 7 p.m. (2.30 p.m. GMT) Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch appeared before UK’s House of Commons Home Affairs Committee to answer questions about phone hacking by News of the World. NDTV 24×7, Times Now, Headlines Today, BBC, CNN, CNN-IBN, News X, NDTV Profit, CNBC TV18 and Bloomberg were showing the event. ET Now was the exception. Hillary Clinton‘s visit lost importance. Rupert Murdoch said “This is the most humble day of my life.” In the beginning his answers were “Yes” or “No”. James Murdoch answered in sentences. Later Rupert Murdoch answered in sentences. On Left Right and Centre there was little discussion and it was telecast for most of the time. Someone said the Murdochs had been tutored well and Rupert Murdoch must have rehearsed the sentence thousand times. On Face the Nation after some discussion it was telecast of Rebekah Brooks answering questions.

Phone hacking in Britain was going on for a long time. People did not protest when phones of royalty, politicians and celebrities were hacked. When it became public that phones of a murder victim Milly Dowler, 7/7 victims and of soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan were hacked there was outrage.

The phone hacking scandal has made international headlines. Not only there was hacking but also bribing of police officers to know the phone numbers of the queen and her itinerary.

Rupert Murdoch was considered invincible. The scandal made him vulnerable. Advertisements to News of the World stopped and he shut it down. He had to give up his BSkyB bid. He met Milly Dowler’s family and said sorry. He took out advertisements on newspapers saying sorry. He had to appear before MPs and answer questions. He said he did not know about phone hacking. His enemies were happy to see him in trouble. It is said that the character of Elliot Carver in the film Tomorrow Never Dies was based on him. However the way the death of Elliot Carver was reported in the film was similar to the death of Robert Maxwell. Unlike Elliot Carver who wanted a war between China and UK so that his newspaper could flourish Rupert Murdoch did not want a between China and UK.

The scandal led to 10 arrests and resignations of Commissioner of Police Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner of Police John Yates.

In India there is legal and illegal phone tapping. Private detective agencies do illegal phone tapping. Radia phones were legally tapped. Who leaked the tapes is not public knowledge but Coomi Kapoor of Indian Express had written that a business rival of Ratan Tata had distributed the tapes to media houses. If industrialists wanted a corrupt minister to continue in his ministry and used a lobbyist, the publication of such matter is of public interest.

There is need for tough punishment for phone hacking or illegal phone tapping. The punishment should be more severe if police officers or other public servants are bribed to reveal the phone numbers of people they are meant to protect. Any terrorist can pose as journalist and kill people. In Afghanistan Ahmed Shah Masood was killed that way.

Politicians and phone tapping

On 23/4/2010 Outlook reported that phones of four politicians were tapped. They were Digvijay Singh, Nitish Kumar, Prakash Karat and Sharad Pawar. The period stretched from February 2007 to April 2010. Vinod Mehta, editor of Outlook, claimed his sources were impeccable.
It is difficult to believe that over four years and two months phones of only four politicians were tapped. Either the sources did not give full information to Vinod Mehta or Vinod Mehta had held back some information.
Who were the other persons whose phones were tapped? How many phones were tapped during 2009 elections and how much UPA benefit from it? Why is no BJP leader mentioned?
It is possible that Advani’s phone was tapped and Congress came to know about his hopes of UPA’s fall and NDA forming government with him as prime minister.
It is possible that phones of Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav were tapped and the information received was useful in making SP support UPA during trust vote. It is possible that Mayawati’s phone was tapped.
It is possible that phones of BJP members who defied party whip to vote against trust motion in July 2008 were tapped and there was something that Congress leaders knew about them.
It is possible that phones of five independent MLAs who were party of NDA government in Jharkhand were tapped and there was something that Congress leaders knew about them that made the MLAs quit NDA and join UPA and form the government headed by Madhu Koda.
It is possible that phones of leaders of various political parties were tapped during 2009 elections and Congress leaders knew about their strategies.
It is possible that phones of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners were tapped during 2009 and other elections and Congress leaders knew about election schedules in advance. One CEC had accused an EC of leaking secrets and had recommended his dismissal. The EC was promoted as CEC.
It is possible that phones of journalists were tapped.
What do Vinod Mehta’s impeccable sources have to say about the above possibilities?
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