Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Monday 19 November 2012

Murdoch Is Served (86)

[Update at end of post]


Back in 2005, two events took place that did not at the time garner any attention from the convocation of investigative journalists and law enforcement agencies that has proved so inconvenient to Rupe and his Troops since Phonehackgate broke. But now, one of those events is being re-assessed in the light of potentially illegal payments made to US officials. The other may also have involved lawbreaking.

That warning siren loud enough, Rupe?

The event that is now being pored over is the Sun’s publishing of photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear. The images were splashed, more or less simultaneously, by the New York Post, another Murdoch owned title, suggesting some degree of co-ordination and possibly the involvement of top management at Newscorp. These were held to be genuine and exclusive photos.

We now know that the Murdoch press almost certainly paid someone in the US military for the originals: this act would have been illegal. US law contains sanctions for those who make corrupt payments to foreign officials: this has already triggered an investigation into the Murdoch empire. And there are yet more sanctions available against those who make corrupt payments to US officials on US soil.

That the Murdoch press was the only organisation that could have made such a payment is not in doubt: the Sun trumpeted its exclusive copyright in an effort at the time to garner as much incremental revenue as possible from other news outlets who wished to print the photos. And it is also possible that their publication breaches the Geneva Convention, which the Sun laughably disputed at the time.

The defence was that Saddam had himself breached the convention, and that this meant it excused the Murdoch press, and anyone else they sold the photos on to. But this is bullshit: every case of breaching the Geneva Convention stands on its own, and cannot be excused by pleading “he did it too”. And then there is the other story from 2005, concerning potential hacking and wiretapping.

This is the splash by the Screws about the break-up of the marriage of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, which the paper ran in January of that year. The intimate details of phone conversations between Pitt and Angelina Jolie suggest that either someone enjoyed quite remarkable recall and access to one or other of the three people involved, or the information had been illegally obtained.

So, while watching the story of the Saddam photos unfold, it should be borne in mind that there is another potentially damaging episode from the same year that the Murdoch press may in due course have to explain away. And that’s in addition to the other potential Stateside hacking allegations, some of which stem from the pursuit of singer Charlotte Church, as I explained previously. It’s all warming up nicely.

[UPDATE 20 November 1145 hours: News International has not denied the central allegation of the story about the Saddam Hussein photos, namely that a US Government official was paid for them. The spokesperson said "We didn't believe then, and we certainly don't believe now, that it was wrong to acquire and publish newsworthy photographs of a notorious war criminal".

Hussein had not, at the time the photos were taken, been convicted of any crime. And whether or not he was a war criminal is not going to wash if payment was indeed made to a Government official. But good to see Rupe's troops not denying that action. More later, no doubt]

No comments: