As ex-aide arrested, Cameron vows media reform

LONDON, (Reuters) – Police arrested David Cameron’s  former spokesman yesterday over the scandal that has shut down  Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, forcing the prime minister  to defend his judgment while promising new controls on the  British press.

As Cameron fielded hostile questions over why he had hired  the paper’s former editor Andy Coulson in 2007, despite knowing  that one of his journalists had been jailed for hacking into  voicemails in search of scoops, Coulson was being arrested by  police on suspicion of conspiring in the illegal practice.

Underlining the seriousness of the threat facing his News  Corp empire, Murdoch will fly to London today to deal  with the crisis, according to two people familiar with his  plans.

And in a sign of how it could be escalating further, The  Guardian newspaper reported on its website that police are  investigating evidence an executive at Murdoch’s News  International unit may have deleted millions of emails from an  internal archive in an apparent attempt to obstruct police  investigations. A spokeswoman for Murdoch’s News International  unit said the allegation was “rubbish”.

“We are cooperating actively with police and have not  destroyed evidence,” she said.    Cameron said he took “full responsibility” for his decision  to appoint Coulson, who quit Downing Street in January when  police relaunched inquiries. But the premier rebuffed criticism  and strove to spread the blame for an affair that has generated  public outrage against the press, politicians and police.

“Murder victims, terrorist victims, families who have lost  loved ones in war…” he said: “That these people could have  had their phones hacked into in order to generate stories for a  newspaper is simply disgusting.”

So widespread was the rot, Cameron told an emergency news  conference after Murdoch dramatically shut down his  best-selling Sunday paper, that only a completely new system of  media regulation and a full public inquiry into what went wrong  over a decade at News of the World and beyond would meet public  demand.    “This scandal is not just about some journalists on one  newspaper,” Cameron said. “It’s not even just about the press.  It’s also about the police. And, yes, it’s also about how  politics works and politicians too.”

In another indication of spreading fallout, police said  they had arrested a 63-year-old man in Surrey in southern  England over allegations of inappropriate payments to police. A  police spokesman said the man was not a serving policeman.

News of the World and other newspapers have been accused of  paying the police for information.

Police also raided another tabloid, the Daily Star, earlier  on Friday over allegations of phone hacking.

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