Ex-U.K. officials say Murdoch tabloids hacked them to aid corporate agenda : NPR

Former Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne, along with two other former U.K. officials, has accused Rupert Murdoch‘s tabloids of hacking into their voicemails to further a corporate agenda. Huhne, who was forced to resign in 2012 after a series of personal scandals, claims that his phone was hacked by people on behalf of Murdoch’s tabloids News of the World and The Sun. These allegations are part of a larger scandal involving the Murdoch family’s British tabloids, which have been accused of hacking into the voicemails of crime victims, war dead, politicians, sports stars, and celebrities to generate headlines and sell papers. Rupert Murdoch has publicly apologized, and his media empire has paid over a billion dollars in handling claims and legal fees since 2011.

In this latest case, a former senior government official alleges that his voicemails were hacked not only for scandalous copy but also as part of an effort to block the company’s $15 billion takeover of a huge European broadcaster. Three former senior company executives, including the current chief of Murdoch’s British operations, a top aide to French President Emmanuel Macron, and the incoming publisher of the Washington Post, are prominently mentioned in the allegations.

According to the former Cabinet minister, Chris Huhne, this hacking was not just about celebrity gossip but rather a serious attempt to undermine the democratic process. Huhne’s attorneys and News UK, Murdoch’s British publishing arm, are expected to announce in court that they have reached a six-figure settlement. Two other former Cabinet ministers, Vince Cable and Norman Lamb, also have lawsuits scheduled to be tried in court in early 2025.

News UK has issued an “unreserved apology” and stated that it is paying financial damages to those with valid claims. The company argues that these matters are historical, dating back to a period between 1996 and 2012. However, News UK has hinted that more settlements may be forthcoming.

These allegations against the Murdoch companies in the U.K. echo similar legal challenges faced by Murdoch’s media empire in the United States. Earlier this year, Fox Corp. agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems. Another lawsuit involving the voting tech company Smartmatic seeks $2.7 billion in damages. The lawsuits in both countries raise questions about the judgment, integrity, and involvement of the Murdoch family and their companies.

The hacking scandal in the U.K. revolves around the Murdochs’ desire to acquire full control of broadcasting giant Sky. The government at the time, led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, was divided on the issue, with Liberal Democrats expressing skepticism. Former business secretary Vince Cable had the role of deciding whether to allow the Murdochs to acquire full control of Sky, and allegations suggest that his voicemail was hacked to gain leverage over him. These allegations, along with those made by Huhne and Norman Lamb, raise concerns about the corporate culture within Murdoch’s media empire.

Overall, these allegations and lawsuits against the Murdoch family and their media companies highlight the need for accountability and transparency in the media industry. The outcome of these cases will determine the extent to which Murdoch’s companies are held responsible for their actions and whether further legal action will be taken.

Original Story at www.npr.org – 2023-12-05 10:00:28

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