British police arrested six journalists on Wednesday in a new probe into… (Carl Court / AFP/Getty Images )
LONDON – British police announced the arrest of six journalists on suspicion of phone hacking Wednesday in a new probe targeting a now-closed tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
Authorities have identified “a further suspected conspiracy to intercept telephone voicemails by a number of employees who worked for the now defunct News of the World newspaper,” said a Scotland Yard statement. The journalists who were not named have been detained “on suspicion of conspiracy to intercept telephone communications.”
All had worked for the News of the World, which was closed after revelations of phone hacking in July 2011. The newspaper was owned by News International, the British branch of News Corp. Two of those under investigation now work for the Sun, a Murdoch-owned daily tabloid.
Mike Darcey, CEO of News International, confirmed in an internal staff memo that of the six arrested “two are current members of staff on the Sun.” He added: "We have provided colleagues on the Sun with lawyers. ...I share your concerns about them and recognize the huge burden it places on our journalists.”
Police said those arrested -- three men and three women from 33 to 46 years old, were being interviewed in London and in the northern England city of Cheshire.
“This suspected conspiracy is believed to have taken place primarily during 2005 to 2006. It is separate from the alleged conspiracy already being investigated by Operation Weeting in which a number of people have been charged,” their statement said.
Operation Weeting is the inquiry into phone hacking crimes that followed the discovery that a private investigator hired by tabloid journalists had hacked in to the voicemails of Milly Dowler, a teenager who was abducted, raped and killed in 2002.
Phone hacking has since been revealed as a long-standing practice by several newspapers. Hundreds of alleged victims, including celebrities and victims of other crimes, have come forward to claim redress in and out of court. So far, compensation settlements amounting to millions of dollars have been paid out by News International, which is collaborating with police.
Over a hundred people, including senior police and public officials, media executives, editors and journalists, have been arrested. Among those charged have been Andy Coulson, a former press aide to prime minister David Cameron, and Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International. Trials have begun, with the first sentence handed down two weeks ago -- 15 months in prison to a former senior counterterrorism police officer, convicted of attempting to sell inside information to the News of the World in 2010.
The arrests come amid heated political and media debate following calls for new media regulations to stem illegal practices without corroding freedom of the press.
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