En juillet 2011 a éclaté l’un des scandales les plus importants de l’histoire de la presse britannique. Il s’agit de la découverte des écoutes téléphoniques perpétrées entre 2002 et 2008 par le défunt tabloïd News of the World, l’un des nombreux journaux de la firme Newscorp, que possède l’influent papivore Rupert Murdoch. Aujourd’hui ce scandale resurgit en raison du procès des principaux responsables de l’affaire des écoutes qui se tient à Londres, Andy Coulson, ex-directeur de communication de David Cameron, en fait partie.
Who is Andy Coulson?
Andy Coulson was born in Essex, a modest London district, started his career at the Basildon Evening Echo but his career took another pace when he was hired by the Sun’s showbiz gossip column, a tabloïd (owned by Australian-American magnate Rupert Murdoch). Indeed in 2003, he succeeded Rebekah Brooks as News of the World editor, while she was appointed to head The Sun. In 2005, NoW was designated as the British newspaper of the year. Thus he began to make a name for himself, in this job without rules. Piers Morgan (another star of tabloïd journalism who used to be editor of NoW) described him as ”one of the best journalists I have ever worked with” and he was called the “Essex boy made good”. The icing on the cake was that Coulson became in 2007 the leader of the Tories’ communication then the communications chief of Prime Minister David Cameron. But this success story ended in 2011 when the phone hacking scandal was revealed.
What is the phone hacking scandal?
The News International phone hacking scandal, commonly known as « Murdochgate », or « Rupertgate » (in reference to the Watergate ), involves Murdoch directly, as NoW was part of his empire. It all started in 2009 with the Guardian‘s allegations, that claimed that NoW had hacked the phones of up to 3,000 celebrities (including members of the royal family such as Princes Harry and William), politicians and sports stars, but also 9/11 victims in the early 2000s. It then took a serious turning point in July 2011, when it was disclosed that NoW had in 2002 accessed the voicemail of a missing 13-year-old English girl named Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered. The revulsion the British public felt after this discovery led to a set of inquiries, and contributed to the closing down of the newspaper. Indeed, on July 6th 2011, PM David Cameron announced that a public inquiry (the Levenson inquiry) into the phone hacking scandal would be launched. The same day, NoW stated that it would publish its last edition after 168 years of publication. The public inquiry resulted in a range of arrests of journalists and private investigators who had worked for NoW and the Sun (another one of Murdoch’s properties), and more than a hundred people were arrested!
The Phone Hacking Trial
Thus after many inquiries, many testimonies and many arrests (as Brooks and Coulson who were released on bail), a trial was opened in October 2013 in which Brooks and Coulson and other journalists have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to hack phones. But both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Prosecutor Andrew Edis said « What Mr Coulson knew, Mrs Brooks knew too. What Mrs Brooks knew, Mr Coulson knew too ». Indeed, the trial revealed that Brooks and Coulson had a secret affair. Rebekah Brooks may be the most important person in this scandal because she was the boss of a Murdoch newspaper when the scandal was brought to light, and she was editor during the phone hackings, like Coulson.
Moreover, if the spotlight is on the two former NoW editors, it is because for many years, they have forged links with Cameron. Indeed while one was his media spokesman, the other spent picnics and one Christmas with him and Murdoch. The links tarnished Cameron’s image, who had to defend himself. Especially, he was accused in 2010 of trying to make the purchase of BSkyB (the main British satellite broadcasting, broadband and telephone services company which is very profitable) easier for News Corps (Murdoch’s company).
Cameron is not the only one affected, Brooks was forced out of her position and Coulson of his council job as soon as the hacking scandal was revealed. Also the Murdoch Empire had to suffer some repercussions, as shown by The Sun’s sales, which have been on the decrease.
Matthieu BELLEAU & Philippe-Amaury GUSSE