NEW YORK — The News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal blasted critics Monday for double standards and insisted that the phone-tapping scandal in Britain should not tarnish all of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
The powerful Journal, the flagship of Murdoch’s US print operations, also warned that pressure to investigate News Corp. under US laws against bribing foreign officials could backfire on the entire media.
“Do our media brethren really want to invite Congress and prosecutors to regulate how journalists gather the news?” the country’s leading financial newspaper asked in an editorial.
The newspaper, owned by Dow Jones & Co, taken over by News Corp. four years ago, accused politicians and competitors of “using the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corp. to assail the Journal, and perhaps injure press freedom as well.”
The editorial pushed blame for the scandal, which has seen numerous arrests and the resignations of two top London police officials, onto British police, British politicians who curried media favor, and British media in general for “decades” of “buying scoops and digging up dirt on the famous.”
On Friday the Journal’s publisher and Dow Jones chief executive, Les Hinton, a longtime News Corp. stalwart, resigned due to his links to the scandal which has engulfed the British publishing and political world.
Hinton had been chairman of Murdoch’s News International when its tabloid News of the World was allegedly hiring investigators who, with alleged help from police, illegally tapped into the telephone records of subjects of news stories.
The scandal erupted when it came out that News of the World reporters allegedly hacked the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler in 2000-2003.
The claim led to the closure of the tabloid, one of Britain’s most-read newspapers, last week, as News Corp. sought to minimize the damage of the scandal.
Hinton denied any knowledge of the phone tapping during his 12 years at News International.
The Journal warned against any US investigation of News Corp. under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, designed to halt the bribing of foreign officials.
“Applying this standard against British tabloids could turn payments made as part of traditional news-gathering into criminal acts.
“The Wall Street Journal doesn’t pay sources for information, but the practice is common elsewhere in the press, including in the US.”