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IFJ welcomes inquiries into media ethics after closure of scandal-ridden tabloid

(IFJ/IFEX) - 08 July 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the announcement of inquiries into the illegal phone tapping and breaches of media ethics following revelations of widespread telephone hacking by journalists at the British tabloid newspaper, The News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The announcement by British Prime Minister David Cameron came after the newspaper's publishers, News International, decided yesterday to close the embattled 168-year-old tabloid and the flagship title of Murdoch's press in Britain. Mr Cameron said that one inquiry will focus on press regulation and there will be another public inquiry led by a judge to investigate the phone hacking scandal.

"We welcome these inquiries, which should expose the web of illegal practices involving corruption and violation of people's privacy," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "The growing tide of public outrage at these revelations is understandable and trust in journalism cannot survive if they are not stamped out for good."

Reports estimate that about 4000 mobile phones may have been hacked into, including those of victims of crime and terrorism as well as of families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The IFJ says the extent of the scandal is a terrible indictment of the newspaper's top executives, who have been the instigators of a media culture based on greed, in total disregard for professional ethics.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the UK and Ireland, an IFJ affiliate, has condemned the decision to close The News of the World, accusing managers of cynical opportunism in sacking staff to avoid taking responsibility for their decisions.

"Closing the title and sacking over 200 staff in the UK and Ireland, and putting scores more freelancers and casuals out of a job, is an act of utter cynical opportunism," said Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary. "It is not ordinary working journalists who have destroyed this paper's credibility - it is the actions of Murdoch's most senior people."

The IFJ supports the NUJ campaign for union recognition so that journalists can have a true voice.

"Only a strong union can combat overbearing and unethical managers and enforce our code of conduct," added Boumelha.

In the meantime, the British media self-regulator, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), has come under criticism for its role in relation to the telephone tapping controversy. There have been calls from senior politicians for Commission reforms, including greater independence from the media industry and investigative and enforcement powers.

The IFJ says its report "Case for Reform Is Unanswerable", commissioned last year to look into the role of the PCC after the controversy erupted over telephone hacking of celebrities by journalists at The News of the World, has been vindicated. The report found that the PCC lacked the power, capacity and mandate to carry out proper investigations and was not independent enough from the media industry.

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