Murdoch's Achilles' heel

By Ren Mengshan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 28, 2011
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In Western countries, it is seen as the media's social responsibility to expose public figures as much as possible to keep their power in check. But this does not mean that the media could break the law in the name of news gathering. Thus, many celebrities and politicians have sued News of the World – as well as other media outlets – for eavesdropping, including the former British Prime Minister and members of the royal family.

But there was little public outrage about those cases because they were not seen as seriously harmful to public figures, who seek power and money through publicity. The status of public figures gives them fewer privacy rights than ordinary people, a sort of "price" they have to pay for being known in the Western world. A powerful watchdog media that digs up information about the public figures promotes transparency. This almost guarantees that phone hacking by media companies will continue.

Thus, the News of the World closed not because it eavesdropped, but because it eavesdropped on the wrong people. Public outrage only became serious when it was revealed that the paper had hacked into the phone of a missing teen – Milly Dowler – who was eventually found dead. This violates the fundamental rights of ordinary people, and that is the paper's biggest crime.

That violation is why British leaders made a clean break with Murdoch. It is why various political and commercial forces in Britain have turned against him. And that is why Murdoch was hit in the face by a pie plate of shaving cream at the Parliamentary hearing by an ordinary person – because no political leader or celebrity would do it.

(This post was first published in Chinese and translated by Wang Yanfang.)

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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