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May 11, 2015

Phone-hacking victim and Murdoch ‘scourge’ Chris Bryant appointed shadow culture secretary

By William Turvill

Labour MP Chris Bryant (pictured, Reuters) has been named as the shadow culture secretary, replacing Harriet Harman, who has held the position since 2011.

Bryant, who is a phone-hacking victim, has been a shadow minister for culture, media and sport since December last year.

His appointment comes on the same morning that John Whittingdale was named by the Conservatives as Culture Secretary, replacing Sajid Javid.

In a profile piece on Bryant in 2011, The Independent described Bryant as the “scourge” of Rupert Murdoch.

The Labour MP won a payout from News Group Newspapers in January 2012 after his phone was hacked by the News of the World. He received £30,000 plus costs.

In a 2003 Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee meeting, questioning from Bryant led to Rebekah Brooks (then Sun editor Rebekah Wade) saying: "We have paid the police for information in the past.”

In an interview with The Independent, Bryant claimed he was approached in December that year by a “senior editorial figure of a popular tabloid” and told: “We will have killed you by Christmas.”

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The interviewer said Bryant, along with fellow Labour MP Tom Watson, helped lead to a “full and transparent investigation” into alleged and proven wrongdoing at News UK newspapers.

As well as being credited with helping to expose the scale of the phone-hacking scandal, Bryant also gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry.

There, he told of how he was suspicious in 2003 that he had been hacked and that he began to investigate in 2009 after reading Guardian reports on other victims.

The Labour Party pledged in its manifesto to implement “the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry” and to “take steps to protect the principle of media plurality, so that no media outlet can get too big”.

On press regulation, the Labour Party manifesto said: “We remain strongly committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry.

“We expect the industry to establish a mechanism for independent self-regulation, which delivers proper redress for individuals, as set out in the Royal Charter, and agreed by all parties in Parliament.

“We made a promise to victims of the phone hacking scandal. We stand by that promise and will keep it.”

On media plurality, the Labour manifesto said: “The free flow of information and of different points of view is crucial for open debate and countering concentrations of unaccountable power.

“That is why the concentration of media power in too few hands is damaging to our democracy. No one media owner should be able to exert undue influence on public opinion and policy makers.

“No media company should have so much power that those who run it believe themselves above the rule of law.

“Yet the current system for protecting against these threats is inadequate. Labour will take steps to protect the principle of media plurality, so that no media outlet can get too big, including updating our rules for the 21st century media environment.”

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