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Fresh arrests may rock Murdoch's empire further

03-14-2012 12:40 BJT

LONDON, March 13 (Xinhua) -- British police arrested six more people Tuesday as part of their inquiries into alleged malpractices at media mogul Rupert Murdoch's several newspapers.

The fresh arrests have drawn more attention to Murdoch's News Corporation (NC) and its British subsidiary News International (NI).

Among the six arrested was Rebekah Brooks, the 43-year-old former editor of The Sun, a sister daily of Murdoch's now-closed tabloid the News of the World.

Brooks's husband Charlie Brooks, a journalist and horse trainer, was also reportedly among those arrested and released on bail later on Tuesday.

Previous arrests had been linked to phone hacking, but the latest arrests were part of an investigation into alleged attempts to pervert the course of justice, which would be a more serious charge than phone hacking.

All these are taking place against the background of the ongoing judicial Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of British journalism.

The Leveson Inquiry has uncovered corrupt practices by journalists and employees of NI, notably at the News of the World and The Sun.

The News of the World was shut down by NI in the summer of 2011 after revelations that it had been behind the hacking of the phone of a kidnapped schoolgirl, who was subsequently murdered.

Several journalists from The Sun have been arrested as part of police probes into alleged illegal payments to public officials in return for news tip-offs, as have other journalists and managing editors from the News of the World.

Rebekah Brooks was the chief executive of NI, but resigned from that post in July last year. Shortly after that, she was arrested and questioned by police in connection with the phone-hacking inquiries, and then released on bail.

She was arrested at her home in Chipping Norton, in the constituency of Prime Minister David Cameron. It has emerged over the past week that she had borrowed a horse from London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), which is conducting the inquiries, known as Operation Weeting, into the newspapers.

Last week, it was revealed that Charlie was one of British Prime Minister David Cameron's close friends and that Cameron had been riding the horse loaned by MPS to his wife.

Downing Street had been avoiding commenting on this issue, but Cameron later decided to clarify it. "Let me shed some light on it. I have known Charlie Brooks, the husband of Rebekah Brooks, for over 30 years, and he is a good friend. Before the election, I did go riding with him. He has a number of different horses, and yes, one of them was this former police horse Raisa, which I did ride," he said.

Rebekah attended Cameron's 40th birthday party in 2006.

The continuing media focus on The Sun and the Leveson Inquiry have also affected BSkyB, which is partially owned by Murdoch.

Ofcom, the regulatory body for the television and radio sectors, revealed last week that it was reviewing whether Murdoch's son James should remain as chairman of BSkyB.

James Murdoch stepped down from the role of executive chairman of NI last month, amid mounting pressure about his role in the management of the newspapers after the phone-hacking had taken place.

The News of the World scandal last July cost Rupert Murdoch the opportunity of buying the entire BSkyB in an 8.3-billion pound (about 13 billion U.S. dollar) deal, which was almost completed when the scandal broke, and fell apart in its wake.

Last month, Murdoch flew to London to personally supervise the printing of the first edition of a new Sunday tabloid to replace the News of the World. The new tabloid is called The Sun on Sunday.

Murdoch has closed the News of the World and replaced it with a new one, but his newspapers still can't fully evade watches on their alleged malpractices.

So far, more than 20 people have been arrested in the hacking probe, and about another two dozen have been detained over the alleged bribery of public officials. The latest police arrests for inquiries show that Murdoch's media empire is still under fire in Britain.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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