Today’s Opinion: Eavesdropping

POSTED: 04/6/11 1:02 PM

Two journalists of the British tabloid News of the World were taken into custody yesterday because of their role in an eavesdropping scandal.

Ian Edmondson and Neville Thurlbeck are suspected of hacking the voicemails of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, movie star Sienna Miller, ex soccer pro Paul Gascoigne, model Ellen MacPherson, London’s mayor Boris Johnson and police Commissioner Ian Blair.

Other who fell victim to the guerilla tactics news of the world used to access information are Prince Harry and Prince William, and Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills.

According to an article in The Guardian, thousands of people have become the victim of Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who works for the tabloid.

In 2005, News of the World already admitted to eavesdropping on the two princes, but it claimed at the time that this was an action of “one rogue reporter.” Now it turns out that the tabloid has been making a habit of illegal eavesdropping.

It is the dream of every journalist to get access to information nobody else has. But this eagerness is now backfiring, and rightly so. The International Federation of Journalists established at its world congress in 1954 a code of conduct for its members.

Article 4 of that code is still valid today: “The journalist shall only use fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents.”

The temptation to use directional microphones to eavesdrop on closed meetings may sometimes be strong, but so far, nobody in St. Maarten has given in to that urge as far as we know, and we think it ought to stay that way.

The scandal in Great Britain is a good lesson for journalists with naughty ideas. Andy Coulson was the editor in chief at News of the World when the eavesdropping scandal involving staff members at Buckingham Palace. He resigned – an action that seemed to bring an immediate reward with his appointment as the spokesman for Great Britain’s conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. It didn’t last though. In January, Coulson resigned because he got more questions from reporters about the eavesdropping scandal than about his actual work for the Prime Minister.

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