Thurlbeck: News International is still in the 'swamp'

Ex-News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has said there were dozens of instances where News International used journalists to ‘manipulate events’.

In April, Thurlbeck accused phone-hacking campaigner and Labour MP Tom Watson of publishing the details of an off-the-record conversation in his new book, ‘Dial M for Murdoch’.

Watson divulged details of a conversation in which Thurlbeck told him that a team of reporters at the NoW were tasked with investigating the private lives of members of the Commons culture committee.

In an address today to the Cambridge Union, Thurlbeck described the instruction from NoW executives as an ‘appallingly misjudged plan and a shameful chapter in News International’s history”.

But he claimed there were ‘dozens of similar examples’he could cite over the past 20 years ‘where News International has tried to manipulate events in a similar fashion”.

“Earlier this year, the company used a hideous expression to describe their internal clean-up operation on their newspapers,’he said.

‘They said they were, ‘draining the swamp’. And there has been a consistent attempt by News International to try to clean its own face by distancing itself from the News of the World and pretending all the company’s problems are buried in the newspaper’s coffin to quietly rot and disappear.

“This is akin to arguing that it wasn’t Richard Nixon who was responsible for Watergate but the agents who planted the bugs.

“The ‘swamp’, if that’s what News International wish to call it, was designed by them, polluted by them and infested by them. And they inhabit it still as their recent plan to spy on MPs clearly shows.”

He also criticised the culture committee for claiming that News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch was unfit to run a major international company.

The claim split the committee along party lines when the four Tory members refused to back it.

Thurlbeck said it set a ‘dangerous parliamentary precedent’which ‘imperils not only the tabloid industry, but the whole freedom of the press”.

“Powerful, successful industry magnates, including multi billionaire media moguls, have always divided public opinion,’he said. ‘Murdoch has always been a bogeyman of the left.

“But when our politicians allow their prejudices to cloud their judgement and overstep their remit by potentially weakening the leader and creator of the biggest section of the free press in the world, we are entering dangerous waters.

“It is up to the readers and ultimately the shareholders, to decide whether Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to run News Corporation – not disgruntled, dogma ridden politicians.”

Last month the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed it would not be prosecuting Thurlbeck over allegations of witness intimidation and harassment relating to the phone-hacking scandal. But he remains on police bail after being questioned on suspicion of involvement in phone-hacking.

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