Back in April I posted how when Helen was PM, visitors to Beehive offices had to leave their cellphones in the foyers. I understand it’s still the practice. It’s not because Ministers suspect officials of bugging them. It’s because cellphones can be accessed remotely and used as bugs by outsiders without their owners knowing. A Murdoch-owned Fox channel, ironically, tells how it’s done. Google tells you where you can buy to spy.
So our leaders, of all political persuasions, think phone bugging is a worry. I do too. It is and it’s serious and those in a position to know are concerned its here.
The Herald thinks the demise of the News of the World is just about celebs getting a comeuppance. But the most significant aspect of the story that has now gone ballistic beyond Britain through the English-speaking world has been to uncover how the Murdoch press systematically cowed police and politicians alike with threats of public exposure of their private life. Political compliance with media monopoly in the BSkyB takeover, and police cover-up over payoffs and untouched evidence. Celebrity Hugh Grant’s sting of News of the World journalist is a classic; judge for yourself whose moral compass you would want to follow.
The DomPost has stated, not posted online, that under the present editor they do not use hacking techniques. That is somewhat reassuring. But they also say:
New Zealanders can be forgiven for wondering if NOTW tactics are used here, too, to score an exclusive story. It would be daft to assert that that is impossible.
Enough said. The media’s worry is that privacy law may be tightened. Here’s former editor Richard “Spinner” Long arguing the case, incidentally saying that good old Rupe would have had nothing to do with hacking – “crass” excess is not his way. I suppose he means he uses subtle excess. What Long’s mate Rupe and his close associates are finding however is that deniability is no longer an option and finger-pointing insufficient to head off blame.
In my view it’s well over time for Kiwis to take the blinkers off. The Engineers Union, which represents journalists, found someone from a paper tapping their phones during its negotiations with APN in 2005. Stronger privacy protection is the best prevention against any possibility of the same tactics here.