The Guardian

War of words between News International and The Guardian grows apace

By Hamish Mackay

December 20, 2011 | 3 min read

The war of words between News International and The Guardian over the deletion of murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler’s voicemails grows apace.

Following evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that it was “unlikely” News of the World journalists erased message from the schoolgirl’s phone after she went missing, a News International executive has now asked The Guardian to correct 26 articles in which the allegation was made.

Reporting the verbal battle, BBC News points out that The Guardian has published a correction to its original 5 July story where the allegation was first made, and this has also been added to the bottom of the online versions of 20 later articles which repeated the claim.

However, Richard Caseby, managing editor of The Sun, has written to The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, and its readers' editor, Chris Elliott, asking for corrections in print and on the paper's website of 26 articles published since the first story.

The BBC quotes Caseby as claiming: "Alan Rusbridger has a destructive agenda against the entire popular press, as evidenced by the regularity by which he publishes false stories about the NoW and The Sun.

"Since July, I have demanded and received three apologies and corrections for extremely damaging false statements of fact about The Sun.

"Alan Rusbridger likes to think of himself as stepping down from Mount Olympus to lecture the rest of the newspaper industry on journalistic ethics.

“But he could make a start by cleaning up his own stable."

The BBC quotes a Guardian spokeswoman as saying that Caseby was dealing with The Guardian's independent readers' editor over the matter.

"We have already promptly footnoted a number of articles and are considering a number of others.

"In addition, we have noted in print, including on the front page, the fact that the police now believe that is it 'unlikely' that voicemail deletions by News of the World journalists caused Milly Dowler's parents false hope."

The spokeswoman added that it was noted that News International had refused to confirm or deny whether NoW journalists did delete Milly's messages.

"That the News of the World repeatedly, and with senior executive approval, hacked a dead teenager's phone is not in dispute.

“At the time the News of the World was closed the company's chief executive warned of worse revelations to come which would eventually explain the company's decision to kill the title.

"Alan Rusbridger does not hold the views about popular journalism ascribed to him by Mr Caseby."

In a statement to the Leveson Inquiry last week, Neil Garnham QC, for the Metropolitan Police, said detectives now thought that the voicemails had probably been automatically deleted because they were more than 72 hours old by the time her parents got through to her voicemail.

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