The firestorm surrounding Rupert Murdoch's media empire is spreading as arrests and resignations continue. Meanwhile, questions are springing up over the demise of journalist Sean Hoare, the man credited with revealing the phone-hacking scandal.
With another political scandal, another whistleblower dies.
Sean Hoare was the first former News of the World journalist to go on the record to allege that phone hacking was endemic at the paper and that its editor, Andy Coulson, actively encouraged it. Hoare was found dead in his house on Monday, setting the blogosphere into a frenzy of comparisons with the case of Dr. David Kelly.
“Why isn't this Sean Hoare story bigger? Reminds me of how Dr. David Kelly was bumped off,” said one of the bloggers, nicknamed Wigwam.
The idea seems to grow, with bloggers’ variations of the same themes:
“Eerily similar tragedies of Sean Hoare and David Kelly. All this madness, to what end?” messaged Pluto Factory.
“David Kelly…Sean Hoare…that's what I'm thinking…Something's not right…” said a user known as Comedybint.
Dr. Kelly was the UN weapons inspector who first cast doubt on the government’s claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. It led to scrutiny of Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq.
It was British journalist Andrew Gilligan who David Kelly had spoken with in order to publicize his belief that the 45-minute claim had been exaggerated. But Gilligan, though finding similarities between David Kelly and Sean Hoare, does not believe in a conspiracy.
“Being at the center of one of these storms is a terrifying experience. I really don’t believe either David or Sean Hoare was murdered. I simply don’t think it would be in anyone’s interest to murder them. Once they got into the public spotlight, anyone with an ounce of sense in the government would know that to kill them would just amplify the story. I think it is simpler. I think both were under enormous pressure from their roles as whistleblowers and found it difficult to cope with that pressure,” says Gilligan.
Sean Hoare’s evidence could have been crucial to proving that the News of the World’s editors supported a culture of listening to private voicemails for stories. Hoare’s former editor, Andy Coulson, who later became a media director to the current Prime Minister, has always denied the allegations.
London-based lawyer and writer Susil Gupta was not surprised at Hoare’s death, claiming the journalist was destroyed professionally for going public.
“The man was destroyed professionally by News International. The journalistic world in London is a very small place. The man was destroyed. It was well-known that he was drinking too much, taking drugs. He was depressed and demoralized,” Gupta told RT.
Police are saying Hoare’s death does not appear suspicious and they are looking at suicide. Dr. Kelly’s death was also recorded as suicide, although many – including leading doctors and MPs – have never accepted that. Their suspicions have hardly been quelled by the fact the post mortem report and other evidence has been classified for 70 years.
Ten arrests, six resignations, two convictions and one death: that is the toll of the phone-hacking scandal so far.
The death of a key whistleblower in the scandal has raised questions, but so far only amongst the “Twitterati”. It is being reported as a horrible and unfortunate coincidence. But it is doubtful that if this had happened elsewhere, say in Russia or in India, the British media would be so quick to accept it as a coincidence, particularly, looked at in the light of the death of David Kelly.
The prime minister's close ties with News Corp and his efforts to head off the crisis could yet take a toll on him and his government, believes British blogger Harry Cole.
“What really gave the story legs was the fact that David Cameron took disgraced editor Andy Coulson into the Conservative party for the media directorship of communications. I think without these legs given to the story, it would not probably have been quite so big as it is now. But the fact is there have been some real errors of judgment, it turns out, shown by not only the governing Conservative party, but by Prime Minister David Cameron. Yet again his chief staff has been shown to be essentially instigating a cover-up about the connections Andy Coulson had to the phone hacking and making sure that the prime minister and the then-leader of the opposition, David Cameron, did not know about it,” the blogger told RT, adding that this ”head-in-the-sand” behavior is lethal for the PM and the PM will now have to face the negative consequences.
“Politicians both in the UK and US have deep ties with News Corporation, and that happens in a lot of forms and fashions,” said Politico.com reporter David Levinthal.
The current situation in the UK now looks as if “one side is getting hammered because of the scandal, and the other side is going to try to capitalize on it as much as possible,” he said, adding that the scandal will continue to unfold over the coming weeks and even months.
The News Corporation is huge and its media institutions – such as Fox News, Wall Street Journal and New York Post, all owned by Rupert Murdoch – are well known to the US public. The phone tapping scandal will surely reach the other side of the Atlantic, Levinthal stated, but it is too early to say how deeply this scandal is going to affect not just the News Corporation, but the media landscape in general.