I am not guilty of these charges. I did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship. I am distressed and angry that the [Crown Prosecution Service] have reached this decision when they knew all the facts and were in a position to stop the case at this stage. The charge concerning Milly Dowler is particularly upsetting not only as it is untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime. I will vigorously defend these allegations.
Statement from Rebekah Brooks, former News International chief executive, reacting to news that British prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to charge her along with others with criminal conspiracy in the ongoing phone hacking scandal.
The Guardian, Phone hacking: Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others face charges [live blog].
Background via the Guardian:
British prosecutors say they have the evidence to prove there was a criminal conspiracy at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper involving former senior executives, including Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, to hack the phones of more than 600 people including the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Announcing the charging of eight people over the phone-hacking scandal on Tuesday, prosecutors alleged the tabloid’s targets ranged from a victim of the 7 July 2005 terrorist attacks to celebrities and senior Labour politicians.
Coulson left the editorship of the News of the World in 2007 after a journalist and private investigator were convicted of phone hacking, and would go on to be appointed as director of communications for the Conservative party. After the 2010 election Coulson worked in Downing Street for David Cameron, who said he deserved a “second chance”, as one of the prime minister’s most senior advisers, before Coulson resigned as renewed controversy over phone hacking grew.
Prosecutors say other victims of hacking include former senior Labour cabinet ministers such as the former deputy prime minister John Prescott, two former home secretaries, David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, and the former culture secretary Tessa Jowell.
There are plenty of examples of reporters going to extreme lengths to satisfy exacting news desks without quite veering into obvious criminality. There was the tabloid freelancer who hid in a church organ for several days, defecating in a plastic bag, to get pictures of Madonna’s baby’s christening; there was the time Rebekah Brooks, then a lowly reporter, disguised herself as a cleaner to infiltrate the newsroom of a sister publication and nab a copy of their scoop.
But the great tapestry of tabloid infamy has always been viewed as an entertaining appendage to public life, mischievous rather than malicious. The UK press looks across the Atlantic and—with, to my British sensibility, some justification—views a moribund print culture that spends more time pontificating about morals than getting stories and making them interesting to readers. As the former Times editor and Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins once put it, “I was trained as a reptile lurking in the gutter whose sole job was ‘to get the bloody story.’” Not for nothing does the trophy for the country’s most prestigious investigative journalism award, the Bevins Prize, show a determined rat nosing up a drainpipe.
In the May/June issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, Archie Bland wrote about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and why there was relative silence in the English media about it over the past few years.
In doing so, he explores the country’s cutthroat media culture and suggests that most ignored the issue because most were most likely doing the same.
Archie Bland, Columbia Journalism Review. Anybody There? Why the UK’s phone-hacking scandal met media silence.