Murdoch axes News of the World after hacking allegations startle politicians

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Rupert Murdoch's News International owns the News of the World.
Image: World Economic Forum.

British tabloid newspaper the News of the World has been axed after a week of devastating allegations about phone hacking in the paper that has struck at the heart of News International, the media giant owned by Rupert Murdoch. The announcement that the paper will close came after advertisers backed out of the publication due to emerging allegations that journalists at the paper may have hacked into the voicemail messages of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, victims of the 7/7 terror attacks and families of servicemen killed in Afghanistan. The last edition of News of the World will be printed Sunday.

"Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper," News International chairman James Murdoch said in a statement after police announced they believed as many as 4,000 people may have had their phones hacked by NotW journalists. The closure of the Sunday tabloid—the best-selling newspaper in the country—topped a week of allegations that lead to devastating criticisms of Murdoch's media empire and forced Prime Minister David Cameron to order a public inquiry into the hacking.

In a dramatic week for Murdoch, it was reported that journalists hacked into the phones of the families of British soldiers killed during the war in Afghanistan, and relatives of the victims of the July 7, 2005, attacks on London. Police have also contacted the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler to warn them that reporters working for the NotW may have hacked into her mobile phone after she disappeared in 2002, leading them to falsely believe that she was still alive.

Alleged hacking victims and politicians from all sides have rounded on Murdoch this week and demanded Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, resign. Announcing a public inquiry into the hacking allegations, Cameron said on Wednesday that reports in The Guardian about the hacking of Dowler's phone were "absolutely disgusting." Speaking to the House of Commons, he said, "I think everyone in this house and indeed this country will be revolted by what they have heard and what they have seen on their television screens."