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.

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