Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Guardian journalist justifies hacking phones
David Leigh, reporter and assistant director with special responsibility for investigations at the Guardian newspaper, justified subterfuge practices by journalists when in the public interest. At the 5th December session, Mr Leigh was heard by the Leveson inquiry, which is investigating the working and ethical standards of several newspapers and other press agents in the UK. He admitted that he approved hacking phones and voicemails, and also he was involved in blagging practices- it means, obtaining information from people by impersonation. Mr Leigh justified these behaviours only in exceptional occasions, and only when he valued that the public interest was at stake, as in alleged practices of bribery and corruption. To support his position, the journalist made a 2006 example, when he contacted Mark Thatcher pretending to be a Middle East arms trader –the Prime Minister’s son was involved in alleged bribery cases in a weapons deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia. When Mr Leigh was reminded that intercepting phones calls represents a criminal offence, he replied that, according to him, these practices were legitimated in ethical terms and that the British Public Prosecutors would have no interest in prosecuting him. While the inquiry court continues with the hearings, the border between privacy and public interests is still at the centre of the British debate.