NUJ claim 'witch-hunt' against journalists amid UK hacking probe

Five employees of The Sun, a serving Surrey Police officer, a serving member of the armed forces and a Ministry of Defence employee were arrested today over allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials.

NUJ claim 'witch-hunt' against journalists amid UK hacking probe

Five employees of The Sun, a serving Surrey Police officer, a serving member of the armed forces and a Ministry of Defence employee were arrested today over allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials.

The editor of the newspaper, Dominic Mohan, said he was shocked by the developments but would focus on putting out Monday’s edition.

He said: “I’m as shocked as anyone by today’s arrests but am determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times.

“I have a brilliant staff and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is on putting out Monday’s newspaper.”

Five men aged 45, 50, 68, 52 and 47 were arrested at addresses in London, Kent and Essex on suspicion of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy in relation to both these offences.

They are being questioned at police stations in London and Kent.

The men are reported to be deputy editor Geoff Webster, chief reporter John Kay, picture editor John Edwards, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, and John Sturgis, who is a news editor.

A 39-year-old serving Surrey Police officer, a 39-year-old Ministry of Defence employee and a 36-year-old member of the armed forces were also arrested at their homes on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both.

They are being questioned, at police stations in London and Wiltshire.

A statement from News Corporation, parent company of News International which owns The Sun and The Times, confirmed that five employees of The Sun were among those arrested today.

It said its Management and Standards Committee (MSC) had provided information to the Elveden investigation which led to the arrests and had also provided the option of “immediate legal representation” to those arrested.

“News Corporation remains committed to ensuring that unacceptable news-gathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated and last summer authorised the MSC to co-operate with the relevant authorities,” it said.

“The MSC will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, private or personal information and legal privilege.

“News Corporation maintains its total support to the ongoing work of the MSC and is committed to making certain that legitimate journalism is vigorously pursued in both the public interest and in full compliance with the law.”

The National Union of Journalists condemned the arrests and suggested there was now a “witch-hunt” against journalists.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Journalists are reeling at seeing five more of their colleagues thrown to the wolves in what many sense to be a witch-hunt.

“They are furious at what they see as a monumental betrayal on the part of News International.”

The union said the reputation of those arrested will “inevitably” be damaged.

“Once again Rupert Murdoch is trying to pin the blame on individual journalists hoping that a few scalps will salvage his corporate reputation,” added Ms Stanistreet.

Officers from Operation Elveden made the arrests between 6am and 8am as part of the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials.

Operation Elveden – which runs alongside the Met’s Operation Weeting team – was launched as the phone-hacking scandal erupted last July with allegations about the now-defunct News of the World targeting Milly Dowler’s mobile phone.

The remit of the operation has widened to include the investigation of evidence uncovered in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers.

The home addresses of all eight suspects are being searched and officers this afternoon completed searches at the offices of News International in Wapping, east London, the Metropolitan Police said.

Surrey Police confirmed a serving officer was arrested at the officer’s home address today as part of Operation Elveden.

A spokesman said: “Surrey Police has been working closely with Operation Elveden since it was established in 2011, with a number of its officers seconded to the MPS to assist with the investigations.

“On learning about the involvement of one of its officers, the force immediately referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).”

Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby said: “The Force takes matters of this nature extremely seriously and we will not hesitate to respond robustly to allegations where there is evidence to support them.”

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman today said: “We do not comment on ongoing investigations.”

The arrests come two weeks after four former and current Sun journalists and a serving Metropolitan Police officer were arrested over alleged illegal police payments.

Senior Sun employees Chris Pharo, 42, Mike Sullivan and executive editor Fergus Shanahan, 57, and News International’s editorial development director Graham Dudman, were named by sources as suspects facing corruption allegations.

All four News International have been suspended and all five were released on bail.

Deborah Glass, deputy chairman of the IPCC, said: “We are continuing to actively supervise the Metropolitan Police Service investigation into alleged corruption, including the latest referral from Surrey Police.

“Today’s arrests are further evidence of the strenuous efforts being undertaken to identify police officers who may have taken corrupt payments.”

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