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U.K. phone-hacking trial opens for top Murdoch aides
Question of the Day
The charges stem from the scandal that erupted in 2011, when it was revealed that journalists at the News of the World eavesdropped on the cellphone voicemail messages of celebrities, politicians, crime victims and others in the public eye.
The furor led Murdoch to close the News of The World and triggered police investigations into phone hacking, computer hacking and the bribery of officials, which have expanded to take in possible wrongdoing at other British newspapers.
More than 30 people have been charged, including senior journalists and editors from the News of the World and The Sun.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES IN THE TRIAL?
The central questions are: What did Brooks and Coulson know, and how widespread were the illegal practices when they ran the newspaper? Brooks edited the paper between 2000 and 2003; in 2002, it hacked the mobile phone voicemails of a murdered 13-year-old, Milly Dowler, while police were searching for her. (Brooks denies knowing about any of the hacking). Coulson was in charge from 2003 to 2007.
WHAT SENTENCES COULD THEY GET?
The maximum sentence for phone hacking is two years in prison, while the other charges carry a maximum life sentence, although the average term imposed is much shorter.
WILL THE TRIAL PUT AN END TO THE SAGA?
Not likely. The hacking scandal convinced many politicians and members of the public that Britain’s press was out of control. Cameron ordered a judge-led inquiry into media ethics, which recommended an independent press regulator be set up with state backing. Many editors and journalists fear that could lead to state regulation, but they may find it hard to resist amid a new blare of publicity about media misdeeds.
“I think this will return us to some of the outrage that was felt when the scale of the phone hacking became apparent,” said Steven Barnett, a professor of communications at the University of Westminster. “We are going to get not just a rehash of the revelations that emerged two years ago; I think there will be new revelations.”
Revelations at the trial also could heap new pressure on Murdoch, who remains atop his now-fractured media empire. The scandal led him to shut down his best-selling newspaper, pay millions to settle lawsuits from hacking victims and split his News Corp. into two businesses, a publishing company and a media and entertainment group.
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