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The Phone Hacking Trial Is Over - Now Murdoch Needs to Implement Leveson

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Now the hacking trial verdicts have confirmed that the country's biggest newspaper company suffered a catastrophic collapse in standards, the question must be: has Rupert Murdoch done what is necessary to ensure it won't happen again?

And the answer is no, he has not.

In fact Murdoch has done the reverse. He has joined a conspiracy with other press bosses to prevent the changes that were demanded by the Leveson Inquiry - changes endorsed by all parties in Parliament, by victims of press abuse and by the public.

That conspiracy against the public is called IPSO. It purports to be a tough new press self-regulator but instead it is merely a revamp of the discredited and failed Press Complaints Commission (PCC) that lets papers carry on 'marking their own homework'.

The Leveson Inquiry into press standards, set up when the hacking scandal broke, concluded that while the industry should regulate itself, its self-regulator must be regularly audited to ensure it is sufficiently independent, impartial and effective to protect the public from abuses.

Three years after the Milly Dowler revelations, Murdoch and his papers - the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times - have completely rejected those inquiry findings.

They have chosen a sure path to further press abuse in the future - or as the Leveson Report put it, to newspapers 'wreaking havoc in the lives of innocent people'. Just like the PCC, IPSO is designed to turn a blind eye to deliberate, persistent intrusion, inaccuracy and bullying.

Guilty verdicts in the hacking trial won't prevent this behaviour in the future, any more than being found guilty of libelling Kate and Gerry McCann deterred papers from going ahead and libelling Bristol teacher Christopher Jefferies in just the same reckless way.

As Leveson said, the best way to bring about change and to raise moral and legal standards in these papers, is to have fair and effective self-regulation, regularly and independently audited. But Murdoch has rejected that.

So even if News International doesn't use phone hacking in the future (and we have no guarantee of that), ordinary people will suffer in other ways, simply because Murdoch and a few of his friends who run our biggest press companies want it that way.

They claim they are defending freedom of speech but this is an insult to the whole idea of freedom. It is they and their employees who have been abusing the freedoms of others in a wholesale manner, while Leveson and Parliament and the public stood up for freedom of expression.

Where Leveson proposed a British version of the US First Amendment protecting press freedom, those press corporations rejected it. Although the Human Rights Act is the best legal safeguard we have for free speech, they want it repealed. And when the government wanted to crack down on the Guardian over the Snowden revelations about state surveillance, they backed the government.

The only freedom they care about is their freedom to treat ordinary people with cruelty, so that they can sell newspapers.

And hacking is not, as they claim, a matter of one rogue newspaper or one rogue company. First, the evidence at the trial suggests it happened in at least one other newspaper group, and second, almost all our national newspapers are accomplices after the fact because they participated in an extraordinary campaign to cover up what had gone wrong.

Not only did they refuse to investigate the scandal, as you would expect honest, inquisitive journalists to do, but they failed to report the unfolding scandal when it was exposed by others. Worse, they smeared the Guardian and others who wrote about it, and they even got the PCC to smear it too.

When the Leveson Inquiry - a proper public inquiry under a senior judge -was set up to find out what had gone wrong, did they cooperate? No, most newspaper groups employed packs of lawyers in an effort to sandbag the proceedings, while editors and reporters smeared, mocked and denigrated the proceedings and all involved in it.

And when arrests were made in the police investigations, what did they do? Papers that routinely demand the most pitiless justice for anyone they don't like were swift to bleat about unfair and disproportionate treatment of newspaper employees. It was shameless.

The verdicts don't bring an end to the scandal of hacking and press abuse. Instead they are a vivid reminder that our biggest newspaper groups are guilty of treating ordinary British people atrociously, and that they are absolutely determined to go on doing so.

Don't let them. Send a message to Rupert Murdoch today, saying "Leveson Now!'

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