Britain’s former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has accused two other newspapers in Rupert Murdoch’s News International family of “criminal” activities to access his financial details and his ill son’s medical records.
Brown claimed that the news company has contacts with the “criminal underworld” and that its title Sunday Times ran a story using his bank details “with the purpose of bringing me down as a government minister”. He was the chancellor at the time, in charge of the country’s finances.
“I’m shocked, I’m genuinely shocked to find this happened because of the links with known criminals who were undertaking this activity, hired by investigators who were working with the Sunday Times.” Brown said in a BBC interview, alleging that his bank and legal details were accessed by the newspaper.
“If I, with all the protection and all the defences and all the security that a chancellor of the exchequer or a prime minister has, is so vulnerable to unscrupulous tactics, unlawful tactics, to methods that have been used in the way that we’ve found – what about the ordinary citizen?”
The Sunday tabloid News of the World, which published its last edition on July 9 after being in print for 168 years, has been at the centre of a phone hacking scandal for the past four years. The controversy intensified recently after it was clear that not only celebrities, but also families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been victims. The relatives of the victims of the July 2005 London bombings also had their phones intercepted.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to set up a public inquiry into the scandal.
Brown said he was “in tears” when he was informed that News International’s other newspaper, the Sun, would be publishing a story on his son Fraser’s medical condition. The boy, born in 2006, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The Browns suffered another tragedy earlier, when they lost their daughter in 2002.
“Sarah and I were incredibly upset about it, we were thinking about his long term future, we were thinking about our family,” he said, adding that they wanted the information to be kept private.
Murdoch’s company has a 39 percent stake in British Sky Broadcasting, but is trying to gain full control of the broadcaster as profit from newspaper advertising dwindles. He has been under pressure from MPs from all parties to drop the £7.8 billion (8.8 billion euros) bid.
There has been uproar among politicians and their constituents alike against the takeover. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced in parliament yesterday that the deal will be sent to the Competition Commission for further consideration, a move that will at least delay it for months.
“I am now going to refer this [bid] to the Competition Commission with immediate effect and will be writing to them this afternoon,” Mr Hunt told the House of Commons.
“It will mean that the Competition Commission will be able to give further full and exhaustive consideration to this merger, taking into account all relevant recent developments.”
On Tuesday a parliamentary select committee is questioning senior police officers, attempting to gather evidence on the hacking scandal.
By Ali Sheikholeslami