Phone Hacking Scandal Comes To Murdoch’s Backyard
Mark Lewis, the British lawyer who has represented a number of phone hacking victims, is traveling to the US at the end of this week. On Saturday, he will speak at a panel on investigative journalism at Berkeley on the topic of “The Murdoch Effect: The News At Any Price?”. The following week, he will be in New York to begin legal discussions “a stone’s throw away from News Corporation’s global headquarters on Sixth Avenue” as the Guardian says.
Lewis will be meeting with his New York-based legal partner, Norman Siegel, former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, about phone hacking and U.S. law. The BBC reports that Lewis plans to take legal action in regard to three individuals who have been victims of phone hacking by the staff of News of the World, the tabloid that Rudolf Murdoch shut down after last July’s revelations that its reporters had hacked into the voice mail of a murdered British 13-year-old, Milly Dowler.
The three individuals are, says Lewis, a “well-known sports person,” a “sports person not in the public eye and a US citizen.” The two sports persons, both celebrities, were in the U.S. when their phones were hacked, a potential violation of U.S. telecommunications and privacy laws. The third person is a U.S. citizen whose phone was hacked in regard to a “transatlantic conversation of a foreign-based celebrity who was a friend of the victim.”
Lewis also represented Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Footballers’ Association, who received more than $1 million from News International, News Corp.’s British newspaper arm. His plans to take legal action about phone hacking in the U.S. are, says the Guardian, a “major escalation in the legal ramifications of the hacking scandal for Murdoch, who has tried desperately to keep it away from the American core of his multi-billion-dollar media holdings.”
News Corp. has sought to settle with phone hacking victims; there have been 60 such settlements so far. But as The Daily Beast observes, revelations from these settlements have been potentially catastrophic for the media company. One such suit provided proof that hacking was not, as News International had sought to convey it as, the work of one “rogue” reporter, but a widespread practice throughout NoW staff. Former editors and journalists of the paper have all been arrested, as have staff from another of Murdoch’s British tabloids, The Sun.
As Lewis said in an interview with the BBC,
“The scandal as it is is not just then confined to the United Kingdom or to the United Kingdom companies like News International and News Group Newspapers.
“This goes to the heartland of News Corporation and we’ll be looking at the involvement of the parent company in terms of claims there and that is something that will be taken more seriously by perhaps the investors and shareholders in News Corporation.”
Lewis also said that there are potentially more cases in the U.S. courts.
In other words, if one compares Murdoch’s News Corp. to the Titanic, those earlier suits and settlements were the tip of a glacier that struck it some time ago and left a crack that is slowly getting larger.
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