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Financial Times editor Lionel Barber told the inquiry that the current PCC code “is pretty robust but it needs to be enforced and it needs to be credible.”

He stressed, however, that the press must remain independent _ “We will make mistakes and reputations may be damaged, but the principle of free expression is really critical.”

NEWS CORP. IS SORRY _ AND HAS DEEP POCKETS WHEN IT COMES TO COMPENSATING VICTIMS

The phone hacking scandal has rocked Rupert Murdoch’s global News Corp. which has made strenuous public efforts to salvage its reputation.

The company has paid damages to settle lawsuits by about 60 people, including many of the inquiry’s witnesses. Each settlement came with an apology in court for the damage and distress the illegal activity had caused.

The company has established a standards and ethics committee to root out wrongdoing, set aside a 20 million pound ($32 million) fund to compensate victims and has already paid out several million, including 2 million pounds to the Dowler family.

This week News Corp. revealed that the hacking scandal has cost it $87 million, most of it in legal fees.

And the story is far from over. About 60 more hacking lawsuits are being prepared.

The Leveson Inquiry has many more months of testimony in store. The second phase of hearings, looking at the media’s relationship with the police, opens Feb. 27.

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Online:

The Leveson Inquiry: http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/

Jill Lawless can be reached at: http://twitter.com/JillLawless