It’s not great that rogue folk within the world’s most hard-hitting tabloid – the UK’s News of the World – authorised outsiders to hack the computer systems containing private voicemail messages for the purpose of generating stories.
It’s illegal in Britain, as it would be here.
It’s certainly unethical, anywhere.
And yet the astounding humbug from the world’s less popular media on this issue is something we find particularly confronting.
Are we really to believe that one weekly tabloid in Britain is the first or last to engage in hacking of this kind?
An answer to that question can be found in Melbourne where the ailing Age newspaper was recently exposed for its involvement in an outrageous hacking incident, involving potentially many more confidential records, when they illegally accessed the ALP’s computers during the Victorian state election.
VEXNEWS understands this is currently being investigated by the Australian Federal Police.
Did that stop them sanctimoniously editorialising about the News of the World?
Scandalously, it didn’t.
They claim those involved in illegal hacking “taint the profession” to the extent that “free speech” itself has been undermined. Strong words.
The cutest part of the diatribe that followed is that apparently Paul Austin, the former state political reporter, who is married to Ted Baillieu’s head spin-doctor Josephine Cafagna, is writing The Age’s leading articles currently.
It has been strongly rumoured around Media House that Austin was knowingly concerned in the search in addition to other identified parties including Royce Millar, Ben Schneiders and the ambitious Nick McKenzie.
So in that context we found it hilarious to read the Age’s pompous editorial this morning which opined:
We believe that the best defence against unethical behaviour by journalists is the industry’s self-regulation, through vigilant adherence to codes of conduct that – among other things – prohibit unjustified intrusions on the privacy of individuals.
Many would think this would exclude a few Age scribes hacking a political parties’ confidential database to look at potentially thousands of private records of MP’s constituents. As has been previously demonstrated, the targets of The Age’s illegal hacking included subjects of stories, work colleagues, friends, lovers, spouses and the prominent.
Leaving aside the illegality of the Age’s hacking, many of the searches clearly had nothing to do with any matter of legitimate public interest of inquiry.
Their own words seem such a fitting description of The Age’s disgraceful and illegal acts:
“This was conduct beyond any bounds of decency, made worse by the fact that some who should take responsibility… refuse to resign and deny knowledge of any misconduct.”
That’d be Paul Ramadge, the current editor-in-chief of The Age.
If what the News of the World has done is bad – and it seems to be quite the mess – then it also logically follows that journalists engaged in illegal hacking ought be held to account, not just legally but also by their employers.
Ramadge – despite knowing about this at the time and having the evidence laid out in full public view – has failed to act to protect the many dozens of victims of the Age’s illegal intrusions into their private records, including information about their health situation, their families and so on.
The Age does not enter the debate on privacy – or the illegal hacking it undermines – with clean hands. Those responsible need to be brought to justice. We are confident they will be.