Phone hacking: One law for the Guardian and another for the News of the World?

The list of UK journalists involved in phone hacking just gets longer. After the Mirror it is now the turn of the Guardian.

The Guardian newspaper may have been a major player in exposing the phone hacking scandal in Murdoch’s News of the World, but is not itself free from the cancer. Their investigations executive editor, David Leigh is a self-confessed hacker (5 years ago) but seeks to justify himself because his ends were in the public interest!!

David Leigh obviously considers himself an inherently good guy such that his means are justified by his ends. I am afraid Mr. Leigh’s ethics are a little confused, a little arrogant and not very convincing. The Daily Mail reports that he is to be questioned by the police.

UPDATE! It now seems that David Leigh was probably also involved in some kind of nefarious activity against the anti-global warming community after Climategate. It would seem that police provided him – or the Guardian – with information in contravention of the Data Protection Act. A form of “information laundering” perhaps!! 

Forbes: Jeff Bercovici

Here’s one more irony in a saga that already has plenty of them: The Guardian, the paper most responsible for bringing the phone hacking at News of the World to light, is harboring a confessed phone hacker. That would be investigations executive editor David Leigh, who, in 2006, volunteered that he had used some “questionable methods” to get scoops, including listening to a subject’s voicemail and lying about his identity on phone calls. That admission drew shrugs at the time, but the Guardian’s avidity in pursuing justice for other phone-hackers has given it new relevance. …

Does Leigh’s defense — that what he did was permissible because it was in the public interest and he was transparent about it after the fact — hold water? I put that question to Kelly McBride, who teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute. She thinks it doesn’t.

“The problem with that is he’s suggesting that the ends justify the means,” McBride says. “In most ethical reasoning it doesn’t because it’s a subjective call. For him, it’s exposing bribery and corruption. For somebody else it might be exposing that some pop star lip synchs over his songs.” (That might sound like a big leap of relativism, but think of all the stories that fall somewhere in the middle, like political sex scandals.)

…. Setting aside the lofty realm of ethics, there’s still the practical application of the law to consider. Leigh writes that “there is a public interest defence available under the Data Protection Act” that, in theory at least, protects him from prosecution while enabling the phone-hackers from News of the World to be brought to justice.

Even if that’s the case, McBride says journalists who choose to break the law ought to be prepared to accept the full consequences. That, in itself, is a useful guide for determining whether a story is one of overriding public interest or just a sexy scoop. “If you get 30 days in jail for trespassing, it’s got to be worth going to jail for 30 days,” she says.

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2 Responses to “Phone hacking: One law for the Guardian and another for the News of the World?”

  1. Guradian to hold Masterclass in hacking? « The k2p blog Says:

    […] David Leigh will be the guest lecturer and will explain the techniques of phone hacking  and the importance of always having noble objectives. He could also explain the finer points of […]

  2. Now Murdoch’s WSJ caught in a circulation scam as his European publishing head resigns « The k2p blog Says:

    […] It’s pretty clear that The Guardian does not much care for Rupert Murdoch or his newspapers but they are involved in so much which is shady that it provides permanent employment for some of The Guardian’s “investigative journalists” (who are not themselves above some hanky panky from time to time). […]

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