News / Europe

British PM Cuts Short Africa Trip Amid Phone-Hacking Scandal

British Prime Minister David Cameron (file photo)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (file photo)

British Prime Minister David Cameron will cut short a trip to Africa, returning early to Britain in order to deal with a phone-hacking scandal surrounding one of the world’s largest media groups.  The crisis has been rapidly unfolding and escalating.

Cameron returns

Speaking in Pretoria, Cameron said parliament will hold an emergency session to discuss the escalating crisis.

"I think it may well be right that parliament meets on Wednesday so that I can make further statements, update the house on the final part of this judicial inquiry and answer any questions that may arise from being announced today and tomorrow," he said.

News of the World, Britain’s top selling Sunday paper until it was abruptly closed down early this month, is accused of hacking into the voicemail of thousands of people, including celebrities and a teenage girl who was murdered. The revelations have exposed links between the paper, British politicians, and the police.

London police have been accused

London Metropolitan Police Commisioner Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates have resigned, after police were criticized for failing to fully investigate hacking charges, which first surfaced more than five years ago. Police officers have also been accused of accepting money from News of the World.

Stephenson denied wrong doing. He said he did not want allegations of links between the police and the crisis to detract from the force’s ability to do its job.  

Chief Executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks ( file photo)
Chief Executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks ( file photo)

Cameron is also closely tied to the crisis. He has been criticized for his friendship with News of the World former editor Rebekah Brooks and for hiring another former editor of the paper as his press secretary.

Bristol University political expert Mark Wickham-Jones says this crisis has been simmering for some time.

"And what has really happened in the last 10 days to change all that is it has just exploded into a sort of complete critique of the way that the media operates," said  Wickham-Jones. "And I think Cameron will be regarded as vulnerable for not taking that seriously, not acting when he could have done, and not taking decisive steps to deal with some of his own personnel and some of his own close links to the media."

Cameron's future

He says the crisis is not going to force Cameron out of power, but it will undermine him politically.

He says the scandal has unveiled a lack of transparency at the heart of Britain’s institutions.

"It is all about the subtle, it is about the informal, it is about the norm based versions of power as opposed to the more formal and overt rules," he added. "And all of that makes it very, very complex. It is about fear, it is about manipulation. It is a very, very complex crisis."

News of the World was owned by one of the world’s largest media groups, News Corporation. Its chairman, Rupert Murdoch, and his son James, its European chief, are to face a parliamentary hearing Tuesday. They are expected to be joined by Brooks, who was arrested Sunday and released on bail.

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