UK media is full of the voicemail scandal in last couple of days. It is alleged that voicemail of Milly Dowler was hacked in to by a private investigator working for News of the World, back in March 2002 when she was reported missing. [Milly’s body was found later in 2002, and in June 2011, Levi Bellfield was found guilty and sentenced to life prison.]
The issue of voicemail scandal raise questions on many levels. I am concerned more on the moral grounds. The sheer thought of someone knowingly hacked in to voicemail of a missing, probably abducted/murdered 13-year-old, just to make few column headlines in their tabloid is shocking. Surely, someone high enough in News of the World hierarchy would’ve approved and agreed this to go-ahead? They were not even concerned that this could have an adverse effect on the search for the missing girl. What does that say about the journalistic ethics of News of the World? How much low can these multi-national news corporates stoop down to sell few additional copies of their tabloid? No one thinks this is an isolated incident – it is just the tip of an ugly huge iceberg. Media has already reported that phone hacking might have happened in Holly Wells /Jessica Chapman case, and also in case of 7/7 London terror victims.
It is very welcome that a number of businesses, including Ford, have already withdrawn advertising from News of the World. Public enquiry promised by David Cameron too is welcomed. The enquiry should not only look in to the voicemail hacking and how the investigator got hold of the mobile number, but also into morality of two greate professions – Journalism and Police. Strong allegations that “rough” police officers are ready to do anything for money is an absolute disgrace. Justice delayed is justice denied. Whether the public enquiry costs a lot of money and/or time, government should go ahead with it as early as possible – as no one can put a price on society’s morality and victim’s/relative’s sentiments. No one can put a price on the trust and expectations we have on our media and police. As always, just a few journalists/ police officers are ruining the reputation of whole of their respective professions. The corrupt should be brought to daylight and severely punished.
What we should read along with this is the possible takeover of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which News of the World is part of. While it could be argued that these two are separate incidents, how can we be sure that the News giant has separate rules/morals for different wings of their empire? The way senior executives are transferred (Rebekah Brooks under whose tenure the phone hacking happened is now the Chief Executive of News International) between these subsidiaries , how easy is it for News Corp to prove that the hands of its executives are clean and ethics are undiluted?