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The Guardian Phone-Hacking Trial

The Guardian defends its coverage on NoW mobile phone-hacking

By Hamish Mackay

December 14, 2011 | 5 min read

The Guardian has vigorously defended its coverage of the News of the World mobile phone-hacking scandal as accusations and counter-accusations were made yesterday on aspects of the newspaper’s coverage.

The Guardian sparked a public outcry in July when it printed allegations that News of the World reporters had deliberately accessed the mobile phone of murdered school girl, Milly Dowler, and erased messages to make room for more.

Three days after The Guardian published the story, James Murdoch announced that week’s edition of the Sunday tabloid would be its last.

The Scotsman reports today: “Nick Davies, the journalist who wrote The Guardian article, yesterday dismissed critics who said the claims about the deletion of voicemails were a key factor in the demise of the newspaper as ‘delusional’.

The Guardian insisted that the story it carried on July 4 “accurately” reported the facts that were known at the time.

The Scotsman report goes on: “It [The Guardian] said it is ‘uncontested’ that Metropolitan Police detectives told Mrs Dowler in April the News of the World was responsible for hacking and deleting voicemail messages on her daughter’s phone.

“Mr Davies insisted the main point of his story had been about the hacking into, not deletion, of voicemail messages and said 95 per cent of the article had been proved to be true.

“Mr Davies said: ‘To claim that it is the deletion element of that story which made all the difference is a grotesque distortion.

“’There was always the risk that if we came out with the new evidence that mischief-makers would get hold of it and try to make more of it than should be made’.”

The Scotsman said that Davies defended the Guardian’s decision not to feature the story containing the fresh information more prominently amid accusations it had been “buried”.

Yesterday the Leveson Inquiry into press standards was told the messages may have been automatically removed.

Lord Justice Leveson said that he would consider how to “get to the bottom” of what had happened.

Meanwhile, Press Gazette reports that the former managing editor of the News of the World has attacked The Guardian and its editor Alan Rusbridger for “sexing up” its coverage of the hacking scandal and holding the tabloid press in contempt.

Press Gazette says that Richard Caseby told the Joint Committee on Privacy Injunctions that it was “now clear that Alan Rusbridger has effectively sexed up his investigation into phone-hacking and the wider issue of wrongdoing in the media”.

It quotes Caseby as saying: "As you are, I am sure, aware, the Metropolitan Police has now confirmed that the NoW was not to blame for deleting the specific mobile phone messages of Milly Dowler that gave false hope to her parents that she was still alive," said Caseby.

"Let me be clear: phone-hacking by the NoW was wrong and it is rightfully condemned by all.

"But The Guardian statement of fact, in I think it was 34 articles, that the paper had given the parents false hope is quite another matter - because that accusation turned what was natural condemnation into a wave of such utter public revulsion that the NoW couldn't really function as a going concern anymore and it had to be shut down."

Caseby, reports Press Gazette, said the accusation “directly resulted in 200 people being thrown out of work.

“I can see that Alan Rusbridger is still finding it hard to acknowledge how seriously this repeated error has undermined his paper's authority.

"In fact he tried to justify it yesterday, saying that his paper reported the facts as they were known at the time.

"The trouble is they were never facts. They were only ever allegations."

He went on to claim that Rusbridger had now “turned his attention to The Sun" in what amounted to an "agenda against the popular press".

"He tried, I believe, to capitalise on public revulsion and close another News International title.”

"Mr Rusbridger has shown a pattern of behaviour that poses a serious question over his motivations.

"He has an agenda against the popular press, a section of the media he clearly holds in contempt."

Sources: The Scotsman. Press Gazette.

Ends

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