Leveson witnesses halt the tabloid power grab | Media | The Guardian
The phone-hacking scandal never was simply a story about journalists behaving badly: it was and is about power.
On Monday, in an outbreak of peculiarly destructive evidence, Lord Justice Leveson’s courtroom became a battlefield for two parts of a defining power struggle.
The first was short term. In the past few weeks, those who lost some of their power last summer, when the facts of the scandal finally erupted, have been trying to reclaim it. In 20 minutes of deftly understated evidence, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers sent them packing.
Rupert Murdoch’s Sun had led the attempted coup with an outburst of the kind of tabloid fist-waving which has itself been part of the distortion of power. The paper’s associate editor, Trevor Kavanagh, reacted to the arrest of 10 of his colleagues by launching a ferocious attack on Scotland Yard. It was full of the rhetorical flourish of great reporting but almost devoid of facts.
Crucially, Kavanagh’s claim that the Yard was engaged in a witch-hunt against legitimate journalism was based on a bold assumption that, in the Sun’s history of paying sources for stories, “there is nothing disreputable and, as far as we know at this point, nothing illegal”. Never pausing to question that assumption, the Daily Mail joined in, reporting the arrests under the headline “Operation Overkill” and running a column by Richard Littlejohn which compared the police to the Stasi engaging in “a sinister assault on a free press”.