Saturday, July 30, 2011

Phone Hacking Scandal: Leveson Judicial Inquiry Begins In UK


LONDON -- A senior judge on Thursday opened an inquiry into Britain's phone-hacking scandal that will start by looking at whether the country needs tougher media regulation.

Justice Brian Leveson said he has the legal power to demand evidence from witnesses – and plans to use it "as soon as possible."

Leveson's inquiry was announced earlier this month by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of a scandal over illegal eavesdropping that has closed down the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid and shaken Rupert Murdoch's global media empire.

Leveson's 7-member panel includes a veteran newspaper reporter, a former police chief, a civil liberties activist and a broadcast journalist. They held their first formal meeting Thursday and will begin public hearings in September.

The panel is due to issue a report within a year. Leveson said he would strive to meet that deadline, but "not at all costs."

Leveson said that "in the first instance the inquiry will focus primarily on the relationship between the press and public and the related issues of press regulation."

Later it will look at relations among the press, police and politicians.

The inquiry has the power to summon evidence and witnesses, including journalists, news executives, police and politicians. But Leveson said he hoped people would participate willingly to help root out wrongdoing.

"It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a group of journalists then operating at the News of the World, but I would encourage all to take a wider view of the public good and help me grapple with the width and depth of the problem," he said.

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