Murdoch: "Sun on Sunday" on its way

News International employees appear surprised by new NotW announcement.

The name does make one wonder how long Murdoch spent deliberating over the launch of the News of the World's replacement.

Seven months after the title folded following revelations that a hired private investigator had hacked the phone of missing school girl Milly Dowler, Rupert Murdoch today visited the London headquarters of News International and revealed to employees that the Sun on Sunday newspaper would be launching "very soon".

The announcement was made to staff via email (in full below), whilst the News Corp CEO met for crisis talks at the Wapping HQ over the arrest of ten current and former senior staff at the Sun, since November, in connection with claims of corrupt payments to public officials and police.

Of the new publication, a News International journalist told the Guardian's Lisa O'Carroll:

There was a bit of a sharp intake of breath, an 'er, what now?' when the email arrived. The last time we got something like this was an email from James Murdoch closing the News of the World down.

Murdoch addresses "this situation" at the Sun -- "a source of great pain" for him -- by telling employees:

We will obey the law . . . I made a commitment last summer that I would do everything I could to get to the bottom of our problems and make this Company an example to Fleet Street of ethical journalism.

He also announced, in the strongest show of solidarity yet with accused Sun staff, that News Corps would pay their legal expenses, lift all suspensions and welcome back to work those arrested and bailed.

In his NS Media column this week Peter Wilby suggested a future for the media mogul's British titles, noting the association with him, as it stands, is still "toxic" for the brands:

Murdoch closed the NoW with reluctance, but the almost inevitable conclusion of this long-running scandal is that he sells both the Sun and the NoW (the title of which he still owns). Freed of the toxicity of their association with Murdoch, they might be worth around £1bn. The fate of the Times and Sunday Times is anyone's guess. Perhaps, as Michael Wolff, Murdoch's most recent biographer, has suggested, he could endow an independent trust to keep them going. That would at least provide a dignified conclusion to Murdoch's 43-year career as a British newspaper proprietor.

Rupert Murdoch email to News International staff

Dear Colleagues:

I've worked alongside you for 43 years to build The Sun into one of the world's finest papers. It is a part of me and is one of our proudest achievements. The Sun occupies a unique and important position within News Corporation.

I have immense respect for our heritage, your exceptional journalism and, above all, you, the talented women and men who work tirelessly every day to ensure our readers have access to such a trusted news source. I believe this newsroom is full of great journalists and I remain grateful for your superb work and for the stories you uncover to inform and protect the public. None more so than over the last three weeks.

My continuing respect makes this situation a source of great pain for me, as I know it is for each of you.

We will obey the law. Illegal activities simply cannot and will not be tolerated - at any of our publications. Our Board of Directors, our management team and I take these issues very seriously.

Our independently chaired Management & Standards Committee, which operates outside of News International, has been instructed to cooperate with the police. We will turn over every piece of evidence we find -- not just because we are obligated to but because it is the right thing to do.

We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested -- all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work. News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.

I made a commitment last summer that I would do everything I could to get to the bottom of our problems and make this Company an example to Fleet Street of ethical journalism. We will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, which I know are essential for all of you to do your jobs. But we cannot protect people who have paid public officials.

I am confident we can live by these commitments and still produce great journalism.

We will build on The Sun's proud heritage by launching The Sun on Sunday very soon. Our duty is to expand one of the world's most widely read newspapers and reach even more people than ever before.

Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics.

I am even more determined to see The Sun continue to fight for its readers and its beliefs. I am staying with you all, in London, for the next several weeks to give you my unwavering support.

I am confident we will get through this together and emerge stronger.

Thank you,
Rupert Murdoch

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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Why Barack Obama was right to release Chelsea Manning

A Presidential act of mercy is good for Manning, but also for the US.

In early 2010, a young US military intelligence analyst on an army base near Baghdad slipped a Lady Gaga CD into a computer and sang along to the music. In fact, the soldier's apparently upbeat mood hid two facts. 

First, the soldier later known as Chelsea Manning was completely alienated from army culture, and the callous way she believed it treated civilians in Iraq. And second, she was quietly erasing the music on her CDs and replacing it with files holding explosive military data, which she would release to the world via Wikileaks. 

To some, Manning is a free speech hero. To others, she is a traitor. President Barack Obama’s decision to commute her 35-year sentence before leaving office has been blasted as “outrageous” by leading Republican Paul Ryan. Other Republican critics argue Obama is rewarding an act that endangered the lives of soldiers and intelligence operatives while giving ammunition to Russia. 

They have a point. Liberals banging the drum against Russia’s leak offensive during the US election cannot simultaneously argue leaks are inherently good. 

But even if you think Manning was deeply misguided in her use of Lady Gaga CDs, there are strong reasons why we should celebrate her release. 

1. She was not judged on the public interest

Manning was motivated by what she believed to be human rights abuses in Iraq, but her public interest defence has never been tested. 

The leaks were undoubtedly of public interest. As Manning said in the podcast she recorded with Amnesty International: “When we made mistakes, planning operations, innocent people died.” 

Thanks to Manning’s leak, we also know about the Vatican hiding sex abuse scandals in Ireland, plus the UK promising to protect US interests during the Chilcot Inquiry. 

In countries such as Germany, Canada and Denmark, whistle blowers in sensitive areas can use a public interest defence. In the US, however, such a defence does not exist – meaning it is impossible for Manning to legally argue her actions were in the public good. 

2. She was deemed worse than rapists and murderers

Her sentence was out of proportion to her crime. Compare her 35-year sentence to that received by William Millay, a young police officer, also in 2013. Caught in the act of trying to sell classified documents to someone he believed was a Russian intelligence officer, he was given 16 years

According to Amnesty International: “Manning’s sentence was much longer than other members of the military convicted of charges such as murder, rape and war crimes, as well as any others who were convicted of leaking classified materials to the public.”

3. Her time in jail was particularly miserable 

Manning’s conditions in jail do nothing to dispel the idea she has been treated extraordinarily harshly. When initially placed in solitary confinement, she needed permission to do anything in her cell, even walking around to exercise. 

When she requested treatment for her gender dysphoria, the military prison’s initial response was a blanket refusal – despite the fact many civilian prisons accept the idea that trans inmates are entitled to hormones. Manning has attempted suicide several times. She finally received permission to receive gender transition surgery in 2016 after a hunger strike

4. Julian Assange can stop acting like a martyr

Internationally, Manning’s continued incarceration was likely to do more harm than good. She has said she is sorry “for hurting the US”. Her worldwide following has turned her into an icon of US hypocrisy on free speech.

Then there's the fact Wikileaks said its founder Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Manning was released. Now that Manning is months away from freedom, his excuses for staying in the Equadorian London Embassy to avoid Swedish rape allegations are somewhat feebler.  

As for the President - under whose watch Manning was prosecuted - he may be leaving his office with his legacy in peril, but with one stroke of his pen, he has changed a life. Manning, now 29, could have expected to leave prison in her late 50s. Instead, she'll be free before her 30th birthday. And perhaps the Equadorian ambassador will finally get his room back. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.