News / Europe

Britain's PM: James Murdoch has 'Questions to Answer'

Chief executive of News Corporation Europe and Asia, James Murdoch, arrives at the News International headquarters in London, July 19, 2011 (file photo)
Chief executive of News Corporation Europe and Asia, James Murdoch, arrives at the News International headquarters in London, July 19, 2011 (file photo)

A British lawmaker has asked police to investigate evidence James Murdoch gave to British parliamentarians earlier this week. On Tuesday the son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch answered questions about a phone hacking scandal at a British tabloid. His evidence has since been contradicted.

James Murdoch may have hoped to draw a line under his role in the phone hacking scandal after giving testimony to British lawmakers on Tuesday. But now his testimony has been challenged and a British parliamentarian says it’s a matter for the police to investigate.

David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, said clarification is needed. "Clearly James Murdoch has questions to answer in parliament and I'm sure that he will do that. And clearly News International has some big issues to deal with and a mess to clean up," Cameron said.

The ongoing saga relates to British tabloid News of the World. It was closed down earlier this month after allegations were made that journalists at the paper had illegally hacked into voicemail boxes.  

When the allegations first hit, executives said hacking was carried out by one “rogue” reporter but it has since emerged that hacking may have been widespread and some 4,000 people hacked.

James Murdoch, the European head of News Corporation, was questioned by British MPs on Tuesday.

They wanted to know how much executives knew about the scale of hacking. They asked Murdoch about an email that suggested hacking went beyond just one reporter and specifically whether he knew about that email when he signed off on a six-figure payment to someone who claimed to have been hacked.

Murdoch said he didn’t then know about the email.

But Colin Myler, the paper’s former editor, and Tom Crone, its former legal manager have said in a statement that Murdoch did know about the email, that they had told him about it.  

Tom Watson, a Labor MP, spoke to the BBC about the importance of the revelation.  "I think this is the most significant moment of two years of investigation into phone hacking," Watson said.

He says it’s unclear where the truth lies.

But he says if the two men’s statement is correct, that would mean that as early as 2008 Murdoch knew others were involved in hacking and that he didn’t do anything to crack down on the problem.

More importantly, he says, it means Murdoch may have perverted the course of justice, a crime in Britain.

"If their version of events is accurate, it does not just mean that parliament is being misled it means that the police has another investigation on their hands," Watson said.

James Murdoch says he stands by the testimony he gave Tuesday.

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