The empire crumbles: Murdoch 'throws Sun reporters to the wolves'

Back in the UK: Murdoch is coming to London next week
Back in the UK: Murdoch is coming to London next week

By Ian Dunt

Anger towards Rupert Murdoch was growing today, as he prepared to fly back to London amid high-level arrests at the Sun newspaper.

The media proprietor was accused of throwing Sun reporters "to the wolves" in a bid to rescue his ambitions over BSkyB, after a dramatic series of arrests at Britain's highest-selling tabloid.

"Journalists are reeling at seeing five more of their colleagues thrown to the wolves in what many sense to be a witch-hunt," National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said.

"They are furious at what they see as a monumental betrayal on the part of News International [the owner of the Sun and the Times]."

The arrests followed information handed to the police by News International, via its Management and Standards Committee (MSC). They relate to payments made to officials in exchange for stories.

Mr Murdoch is under unprecedented pressure, as his entire business empire wobbles under the weight of multiple crises.

In addition to the arrests at the Sun and the ongoing phone-hacking inquiry, his son faces arrest, US authorities have started looking into his business practices and the Commons media committee is toying with calling him in to answer more questions.

"Today's developments show this is no longer only about phone-hacking. It goes to the very heart of corporate governance of the company led by Rupert Murdoch," committee member Tom Watson said.

"Experience shows the company were aware of wrong-doing before it was forced into the public domain by police or civil action but there are now more questions that must be answered."

Mr Murdoch was forced to state that he was not closing the Sun last night, amid frenzied speculation that it would be the next of his newspapers to shut after the News of the World.

The Sun's popularity is needed for the continued publication of the Times and it is unlikely the broadsheet would be able to survive if the tabloid closed.

Some Wall Street analysts believe that ridding itself of its British newspapers could bump up the share price of News Corp, News International's parent company, by 20%.

The seniority of the staff involved at the Sun arrests shocked many industry insiders.

Picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, reporter John Sturgis and associate editor Geoff Webster were arrested.

A Surrey Police officer, a member of the armed forces and a Ministry of Defence employee were also arrested.

"I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper," News International chief executive Tom Mockridge said in a memo to staff yesterday.

Editor Dominic Mohan said: "I'm as shocked as anyone by today's arrests but am determined to lead the Sun through these difficult times.

"I have a brilliant staff and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is on putting out Monday's newspaper."


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