James Murdoch: Man of many fabrications and few friends

MP Tom Watson said the new material was devastating and he was not exaggerating. Difficult though it may be to believe, documents released by the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee are at least as damaging to News International management as the revelation that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s voice mail had been hacked. That news prompted disgrace and resignations: now we are looking at possible criminal charges at senior levels.

Assuming that these documents hold up to scrutiny, a whole raft of executives — not journalists or editors, but well above that level — are likely to be questioned by police investigating the possibility of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Arrest in some cases must be likely.

James Murdoch may not be facing jail, but he will struggle to argue his way out of this corner. When he appeared before MPs he chose a strategy of bluster and blaming others. Predictably, those others have bitten back and Murdoch must be finished as a company executive in the United Kingdom. It is difficult to believe that a man so compromised could ever hold a global role at News Corp either.

Rarely has the old line about the cover-up being worse than the original crime been so spectacularly borne out. And rarely has a parliamentary select committee unearthed such a bundle of sensations.

Most damaging of all is the implication that Clive Goodman, the News of the World‘s royal reporter jailed for hacking in 2007, was encouraged or induced by News International executives to withhold the full truth from police and the courts. The Goodman letter makes clear that he knew in 2007 what we all now know — that hacking was widespread at the newspaper. Second to that in importance is the evidence suggesting Goodman was paid nearly £250-million by the company after his release from jail — a far higher sum than the company previously claimed and a sum so high that it suggests that News International bought the silence of employees.

As for Murdoch, he is haunted now by 10 words he uttered to MPs: “No, I was not aware of that at the time.”

He was telling Watson he was unaware of the famous “for Neville” [Thurlbeck, the newspaper’s chief reporter] email at the time he authorised a half-million-plus payment to hacking victim Gordon Taylor in 2008 to withdraw his legal case and remain silent. That email offered firm evidence that Goodman had not been the only reporter involved in illegal hacking. There were two people in the room with Murdoch that day in 2008.

Both have now asserted firmly that not only was he aware of the email, but it was shown to him there and then. They are Tom Crone, former legal chief of News Group Newspapers, and Colin Myler, former News of the World editor.

Murdoch has been asked back to the media committee to clarify his evidence. That will be a humiliation so dreadful that he will be looking for any way he can to avoid it. —

Brian Cathcart
Brian Cathcart works from London. Journalist and author. Prof of journalism, Kingston University. Co-founder, Hacked Off. Latest book: The News From Waterloo Brian Cathcart has over 8246 followers on Twitter.
Advertisting

Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide
Advertising

Press Releases

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.