Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Shocking Revelation of Crimes Committed by The News of the World

Many constituents have contacted me, furious about the shocking revelation of crimes committed by The News of the World.

Illegal eavesdropping on the family of murdered Milly Dowler and hacking into the phone messages of the bereaved families of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan is horrific.  The News of the World even hacked the phones of government ministers - including the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary whose role is to regulate media.  And now there are revelations that The News of the World threatened the security of the royal family by bribing their protection officers to provide information.

News International boss James Murdoch made it clear in a speech in 2009 that the only thing that matters is profit.  The News of the World never cared about the victims of crime even though they shed crocodile tears.  They never cared about the families of fallen soldiers, though they led campaigns.  All they cared about was making money and their approach was, in respect of any individual, how much money can we make from putting their story on our front page to sell newspapers?

The Tories did not act to tackle this in the past as it suited them to have an over-mighty Murdoch empire menacing the Labour Party.  We didn't tackle this in government out of a sense that we were not strong enough to "take on" Murdoch.  Now, with the shocking revelations, there will be change.

We must change the relationship between the government and parliament on the one hand and the press on the other.  There must not be too much power in any one private media company's hands.  We do not want a press which fears government.  But we must change a situation where government fears the press.  We must stamp out press bribing the police and thinking they are above the law.  Individuals need a right of redress when the press act wrongly, and the police must stop selling stories to the press.   At the same time we must have a strong and independent press which will boldly investigate wrongdoing.

Getting that balance right for the future will stop media monopoly abuse of power and ensure a free press and a strong democracy.  We give our heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved relatives who have been so scandalously abused.  But we must act to ensure that out of this comes a strong, new framework to properly regulate our press in the public interest.

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