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Murdoch speaks

News Corp head backs Rebekah Brooks in first public statement.

Rupert Murdoch has just issued his first public statement since the revelation that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked by the News of the World. He describes the "allegations" as "deplorable and unacceptable", and, significantly, lends Rebekah Brooks his full backing.

Here's the statement in full:

Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the News of the World are deplorable and unacceptable. I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively co-operate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks' leadership. We are committed to addressing these issues fully and have taken a number of important steps to prevent them from happening again.

I have also appointed Joel Klein to provide important oversight and guidance and Joel and Viet Dinh, an independent director, are keeping News Corporation's board fully advised as well.

Murdoch's intervention will further relieve the pressure on Brooks, already diminished by the claim from News International that she was on holiday when Dowler's phone was hacked.

But the fact remains that Andy Coulson was forced to resign (twice) because hacking occurred under his watch. Why should a different standard apply to Brooks? Whatever the answer, it is Coulson, who has told friends that he fears he will be arrested, who is in the firing line again.