Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Who's that tapping on one's mobile...?

I've only been running this blog for a couple of weeks and for the third time I find myself commenting on the News Of The World itself becoming the subject of headlines. This morning I woke up to the news that the NOTW's royal editor, Clive Goodman was one of three people arrested for alleged taps of voicemail messages left on mobile phones of staff in Clarence House, home of Charles and Camilla. The story is gleefully reported by The Guardian.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Sir Christopher Meyer said he will be interested to see how the police investigation goes on.

You bet he will. The PCC's Code of Practice states that:

The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs.
(Clause 10: Clandestine devices and subterfuge)

There is a public interest defence available to newspapers that break this clause, i.e. it's OK to tap people's phones to get a story if it is in the public's interest to do so. So for students of journalism, here's something you might want to think about - if the NOTW were reported to the PCC (assuming none of the NOTW's staff got convicted first) and if you were the editor, how would you put together your public interest defence?

While you're pondering on that, here's some interesting background information. The PCC's code is subject to review and revision by the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee, which is chaired by Les Hinton. He also happens to be Executive Chairman of Rupert Murdoch's News International, parent company of NOTW.

Oh yes, and one of the Committee members is Neil Wallis, deputy editor of NOTW.

Filed under:
News of the World    phone tapping    Prince Charles    Guardian    BBC   
Today programme    PCC    Rupert Murdoch    journalism education

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