The big news in London is that the 168-year old News of the World is closing down, following the arrest of its three former executives due to hacking allegations and alleged pay-offs to the police in exchange for information.
The News of the World is part of the empire of News Corporation’s chief Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch’s son announced that the tabloid is printing its last issue this weekend after big advertisers pulled out from the paper. The controversy turned for the worse after pressure was put into British prime minister David Cameron when the police arrested Andy Coulson, who is the PM’s ex-media chief.
The tabloid’s editors are in hot water following reports that the News of the World made alleged improper payments to police officers when Coulson edited it from 2003 to 2007.
There were allegations that the paper’s reporters hacked the phones of murdered children and dead soldiers’ families.
The paper’s former royal editor Clive Goodman was previously jailed for hacking the voicemails of Prince William and Prince Harry.
The British media as well as some practitioners have dubbed the controversy as probably the “greatest journalistic scandal” ever known.
Looking at the issue in the Philippine setting, I hope that the publishers and editors of local tabloids here also take to heart the issue of credibility, integrity and accountability.
Sensationalism is not only the monopoly of the News of the World, which it has been known for. It is about time that the government also look into making people behind the news accountable for the stories they print or broadcast.
In a country, like the Philippines, that values press freedom, it won’t be easy to order a crackdown against the media even though some have been perceived as abusive.
Ironically, the attacks on the Philippine journalists have become bolder – there is an alarming number of newsmen who were killed due to exposes. Some due to alleged corruption.
Maybe, a real honest-to-goodness Freedom for Information Act can help. In this way, there will be less need of snooping around.