The National Union of Journalists has accused News Corp of creating a ‘witch-hunt atmosphere’at The Sun by sacrificing journalists in order take pressure off the company.
The claim was made following the arrest of another five journalists at the newspaper on Saturday: deputy editor Geoff Webster, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign reporter Nick Parker, picture editor John Edwards and deputy news editor John Sturgis.
NUJ general secretary said ‘journalists at the title are furious at what they see as a monumental betrayal on the part of News International” following the latest dawn raids, which came two weeks after officers arrested four other senior Sun journalists.
‘The closure of the News of the World was a cynical act of damage limitation,’she added.
‘The unprecedented decision to allow the Metropolitan Police to camp out at Wapping, and the sacrificing of journalists by the management’s standards committee is an extension of this strategy.
‘The reputation of these journalists, and let’s remember they have not been convicted of anything, will inevitably be damaged.
‘Once again Murdoch is trying to pin the blame on individual journalists, hoping that a few scalps will salvage his corporate reputation.
‘It’s clear that by spuriously cleaning up his reputation he and those close to him still believe the BSkyB deal can be resurrected at some point in the future.
‘They’re doing all they can to make that politically possible. If that means shafting people who have simply been doing their jobs, as it was demanded of them on the Sun and other titles, clearly Murdoch has given the green light to do so.”
A leader column in today’s Daily Telegraph was also critical of the police.
‘There are some countries where dawn raids by the police on the homes of journalists and the arrest of two dozen newspaper reporters and executives would be seen as a serious abuse of state power,’it said.
‘That it is happening here is a sad indictment of the inexcusable activity that underpinned the story-gathering of two News International titles, the News of the World (now closed) and The Sun… But there is a question of proportionality to consider; and in this, the Metropolitan Police has arguably overstepped the mark.”
The paper went on to claim that the Met’s ‘heavy-handed approach’was understandable given the outcry over phone-hacking, but warned that the ‘grievance does not warrant tipping the balance too far the other way”.
It added: ‘By some accounts there are now close to 200 officers working on three separate inquiries linked to the phone hacking affair.
‘More officers are being sent to arrest a single journalist for an action that may or may not be a crime than ever turn up to investigate a murder or a burglary.
‘This risks creating a culture of trepidation and excessive caution among newspapers that is not healthy in a democratic society but suits those who would like to neutralise the press.”
It urged police inquiries to be concluded ‘as speedily as possible”, claiming that ‘open-ended investigations of alleged media misconduct would be intolerable in a free and democratic society”.
The Daily Mail calls for a “sense of priorities” in its leader column today.
It said: “Knife crime…rose by 13.6 per cent, street mugging and theft by 13 per cent, rape by 10.6 per cent and burglary by 8.8 per cent. It is not yet a full-blown policing-crisis but will soon become one of not urgently addressed.
“So can Scotland Yard really afford to spare 171 detectives, many of them dragged away from hard-pressed elite units. to investigate the alleged misdemeanours of some News International journalists?
“Of course, interception of voicemails and inappropriate payments to public servants are criminal acts, and must be properly investigated. But doesn’t this astonishing commitment of precious manpower and resources suggest the Yard may be losing a sense of proportion.”