For the first time in almost 20 years, summonses were issued by a parliamentary select committee.
The select committee (Commons culture, media and sport committee) within the House of Commons decided today that they did have the power to compel the Murdochs, both Rupert and son James, to appear before MPs for questions surrounding the phone hacking scandal. The Murdochs, who had previously told committee chairman John Whittingdale that they were too busy to appear, have reversed course after the committee issued summons Thursday morning. A spokesperson told the BBC that the Murdochs were in the process of letting the select committee to inform them of their intention to appear.
The BBC reports, “We are in the process of writing to the select committee with the intention that Mr James Murdoch and Mr Rupert Murdoch will attend next Tuesday’s meeting,” a spokesman said. News Corporation’s Rupert and James Murdoch have agreed to appear before MPs to answer questions on the phone-hacking scandal on Tuesday.”
The select committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 19 July.
The Guardian points out, “Sir George Young, the leader of the Commons, confirmed that – in theory at least – the two men could be fined or even imprisoned if they defied the summonses issued by the committee.” While this would have seemed inconceivable just weeks ago, two days ago it was inconceivable that the committee would issue a summons to the Murdochs.
The Telegraph adds, “Chris Bryant MP has warned the Murdochs against “stonewalling” in front of the Commons committee: It is within the powers of the committee to decide that witnesses shall give evidence under oath. I think that’s one of the things they should do so that if they then perjure themselves they can be had up for perjury. It may be that their lawyers tell them to stonewall but I think that would be a big mistake.”
Another shocking event that weeks ago seemed inconceivable is Neil Wallis, ex-News of the World executive editor, being arrested, but that is just what happened Thursday morning. Mr Wallis was also employed as a PR consultant by Scotland Yard from October 2009 to September 2010.
Richard Branson was the guest speaker at Microsofts WPC event and he opined that News International were on their knees and getting their comeuppance because their brand was severely damaged:
In the face of being summoned to testify amidst arrests of former editors and journalists with allegations of working with the police and for the police, it’s becoming clear that the Murdochs will be held accountable for the obvious systemic corruption at News International under their rule. Shareholders in America are aware of the impact of a damaged brand, and have sued the Murdochs over their mismanagement.
A top News International lawyer has departed the sinking ship, adding chaos to the mix. And now, Raw Story has confirmed that the FBI has launched a probe into News Corporation over allegations of bribing police and hacking the voicemails of 9/11 victims.
Photograph: Sang Tan/AP
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