Former News International CEO and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks has reportedly been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into phone hacking. Sources indicate she was arrested along with her husband, racehorse trainer Charlie, at their home in Oxfordshire, southern England, early on Tuesday morning. Police confirmed a total of six arrests on “suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice” as part of Operation Weeting, the inquiry into voicemail interceptions. It is the largest single swoop since the investigation began in January last year, and brings the total number of arrests in that time to 45.
News International, the group owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, has been dogged by scandal since the first evidence of phone hacking emerged in 2005. Its News of the World title was closed last July after investigation revealed that hacking was widespread at the 168-year-old tabloid, including of murder victims’ phones.
Executives at NI, including Rebekah Brooks, have consistently denied knowledge of the practice. Brooks was previously arrested last summer on suspicion of phone hacking and making corrupt payments to police.
Concerns that illegal or immoral newsgathering techniques have become commonplace led to the ongoing Leveson Inquiry into press ethics. Last month Deputy Police Commissioner Sue Akers told the Inquiry there is a “culture of illegal payments” at the News International-owned Sun tabloid. Eleven Sun journalists have subsequently been arrested.
Brooks’ arrest is another blow to the organization’s image, just after the successful launch of the Sun on Sunday, replacing News of the World. News International has refused to comment so far. It is also embarrassing for Prime Minister David Cameron, who is a close friend of Brooks and confirmed last week that he rode a horse lent to her by the police.
However, as Brooks has now left the organization, media analyst and former NI employee Peter Sands expects the damage to be minimal. “She’s not directly involved any more so this shouldn’t be a huge problem for NI or The Sun”.
Peter Sands, media analyst and former News International employee
Q: What do these arrests mean for News International?
A: It’s another step in the investigation, it won’t push them over the brink. The News of the World closure had no impact on the Sun and other papers, so News International won’t be badly tarnished.
Q: How do these scandals affect the wider tabloid landscape in the UK?
A: If you look at the Sun on Sunday you can see it is a post-Leveson paper. In the current climate people are less inclined to do investigative work or dig too deeply. Ethics are very high on the agenda, more of the training is in this area, but there is still a market for more investigative reporting.