Lib Dem letter to Murdoch

Proposed take-over of BSkyB by News International

Ever since the report of our Information Commissioner ‘What Price Freedom?’ and the conviction and imprisonment of Goodman and Mulcaire in 2006, there has been growing concern about the policy and practices of UK newspaper titles owned by News International.

Recent weeks have seen the publication of a flurry of further allegations against your company’s publications in the UK which have shocked and sickened the British public, and rightfully so.

It now appears that:

– an investigator working for your newspaper the ‘News of the World’ hacked into the phone of a kidnapped young girl and deleted her messages, giving her family false hope that she may still be alive.

– journalists and editors are implicated with police officers in illegal arrangements to obtain contact details of members of the royal family, which has put the royal family at risk through a completely irresponsible breach of security.

– people working for a News International title have hacked into phones and invaded the privacy of victims of terrorist attacks and the parents of dead soldiers.

We have no doubt that these events led directly or indirectly to the decision of your organisation to close the ‘News of the World’ this week, seeking to draw a line under this terrible affair.

However recent events have made clearer that illegal activities were not limited to the ‘News of the World’. There is now evidence that your papers the ’Sun’ and the ‘Sunday Times’ improperly obtained the medical records of the then Chancellor Gordon Brown so they could run a story about the health of one of his children – as a result of activity which could not possibly have any public interest defence.

People who were in charge of these newspapers are still employed by you at News International in the UK. Your son James, current chairman of News International, and a senior executive at News International’s parent company News Corporation, has admitted that he authorised cash payments to victims of phone hacking, payments which he himself has now admitted were wrong.

People working for your company have sought to cover up the many wrongs which it has committed. Your company has been accused of lying to the Press Complaints Commission, by the chair of the Press Complaints Commission. Only yesterday the police accused News International of trying to undermine the ongoing police investigation into the affair.

News International is simply no longer respected in this country. Given the history of the last six or more years, it should be of little surprise to you that many people in this country have no desire to have any more of our media fall into your hands, tainted as News International is by a history of completely unacceptable journalistic practices. News Corporation, as the owner of News International must take some responsibility for this.

Two days ago the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said you should do the decent thing and withdraw your bid to take full control of BSkyB. Many others have said similar things.

We hope you will respect the widespread expressions of public opinion and change News Corporation’s commercial strategy in this country.

We therefore ask, both on behalf of our party but also on behalf of a very large number of people in this country, that you now withdraw your News Corp bid for BSkyB and concentrate all of your efforts on cleaning up News International. We are clear that this would be the right thing for Britain, and for the reputation of broadcasting and journalism in the UK. We hope you are willing to give a positive response.

Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons

Tim Farron MP
Liberal Democrat Party President

Rt Hon Don Foster MP
Liberal Democrat Spokesman for the Department for Culture Media and Sport

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