AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, now joining us from the newsroom of The Guardian, is the reporter who has broken the media Murdoch—the Murdoch media scandal wide open. He is Nick Davies, award-winning investigative journalist at The Guardian in London.
Nick Davies, welcome to Democracy Now! Well, did you ever think that the—though you’ve been covering this for quite some time, that your report on the hacking of the murder victim Milly Dowler’s voicemail by the News of the World would shake the Murdoch empire to the extent that it has?
NICK DAVIES: No. So, I’ve been working on this thing for three years, very slowly parceling out the truth. I mean, I think I’ve done 75 stories on it. But the Milly Dowler story was fantastically powerful. I mean, I knew when I filed it that it was the most powerful story we had done so far. But I never foresaw this
extraordinary chain reaction of emotion, which just pummeled the entire Murdoch camp. And really very rapidly, within three days, it reached a point where nobody could be seen to be Murdoch’s ally anymore. And that’s a really, really extraordinary thing in this country, because for years the opposite has been the case, that nobody could be seen to be Murdoch’s enemy. It’s kind of like having a bully in the school playground. And once the bully has beaten up a few people, everybody else in the playground recognizes that the bully is there. The bully doesn’t even have to do anything particularly serious. All the other kids tiptoe around. And that means governments and police forces and other newspapers have all been tiptoeing around Murdoch, frightened to say anything against him. And this one story about this 13-year-old girl, at the end of this long sequence of stories, just broke through and changed the whole dynamic.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Nick Davies, many of us here in the United States who watched the hearings this week were really surprised at the extent to which the members of Parliament really were dogged in their questioning and fairly confrontational in their questioning. Could you explain to us the degree of change that’s occurred among these MPs versus how they treated the Murdoch empire in the past?
NICK DAVIES: OK, you look at it this way. For the last two or three years, while we’ve been trying to get this story out, there’s been a maximum of four members of Parliament who were willing to stand up and talk about it. That’s out of a total of about 630.
Take as an example, there’s a guy called Chris Bryant. He’s been very good on this. Back in March 2003, he was a member of one of those parliamentary select committees. And he had in front of him, as witnesses, Rebekah Brooks, the then-editor of The Sun, previously editor of the News of the World, and her close friend and fellow editor, Andy Couslon, who’s the guy who goes to work for David Cameron. Way back there in March 2003, Chris Bryant asked a brave question. He said to Rebekah, "Have you ever paid the police for information?" And she, not considering the impact of her reply, said, "Yes, we have paid the police in the past." Now this was dynamite. You’re not supposed to admit to paying bribes to police officers. OK, that was March.
In December 2003, the Murdoch press exposed Chris Bryant. They accused him of what is in their ghastly moral framework a crime, which was that he was gay. And they published a photograph of him wearing a skimpy pair of underpants. They did that to humiliate that man, that politician, that elected politician, to punish him for daring to ask a difficult question and provoking a difficult answer. And that is a microcosm of why most of the rest of the 630 elected MPs stayed quiet and why the police go quiet and the news organizations go quiet. The Murdoch
organization deals in power. And part of that power is about frightening people.
AMY GOODMAN: Nick Davies, on Monday, on the eve of the Murdochs testifying, Sean Hoare, a former reporter with News of the World, who helped blow the whistle on the Murdoch-owned paper, was found dead in his home. Hoare had been the source a New York Times story tying the phone hacking to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who would later become the chief spokesperson for Prime Minister David Cameron—Coulson arrested as the scandal broke open. Hoare discussed his allegations against Andy Coulson in an interview last September.
SEAN HOARE: I have stood by Andy and been requested to tap phones, OK? Or hack into them and so on. He was well aware that the practice exists. To deny it is a lie, is simply a lie.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Sean Hoare, found dead in his home. The police immediately said it was not suspicious. Nick Davies, you knew Sean Hoare. Can you talk about what happened? Do you believe it was suspicious? And what is his significance?
NICK DAVIES: Well, first of all, there has always been a submerged network of former News of the World journalists who have assisted me and other people at The Guardian and the guys at the New York Times. Where Sean distinguished himself was that he was the first to come out on the record. And in doing that, he showed real bravery. And he did this in the New York Times, not The Guardian. Real bravery because of the intimidation which the Murdoch organization uses. And specifically if you’re a journalist and you come out and speak out against this organization, you’re losing any prospect of employment in the biggest media organization in the country. Sean did it. OK.
Now, I got to know him reasonably well, and he was a really, really—he was a good guy, had wonderful stories to tell. He dies this week. I’m afraid that unless somebody comes up with some evidence to contradict me, the sad fact is that Sean, who was many years younger than me, died because his body was ruined by alcohol and cocaine and ketamine. And in the background, the reason why he consumed quite so much alcohol and cocaine and ketamine and all the rest of it is because there was a long period of time when Murdoch’s newspapers paid him to do that. So, the way he put it to me was, "I was paid to go out and do drugs with rockstars." And he was a show business correspondent, so he went out with a lot of very famous rockstars and ingested massive quantities of alcohol and drugs. And Sean was a great guy. He had enormous bounce to him. So he made no bones about it. He had, you know, enormous fun doing it. He enjoyed doing it. But looking back, he could see that it had ruined his body. He had become very, very ill. His liver was in a terrible state. He said to me, "My liver is so bad, the doctors tell me I must be dead already." So, a kind of black joke. And so, I am afraid that his body caught up with him, and he died. And it’s very tempting for outsiders to say, "Well, that can’t be a fluke. That can’t be a coincidence." But unless somebody comes up with something I haven’t heard of, it was just a coincidence.
AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of—
NICK DAVIES: And if you were going to kill him, you would have killed him a year ago, before he started talking.
AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of what he was saying, pointing the finger at Andy Coulson?
NICK DAVIES: Yes, when he went on the record with the New York Times, it was very important. He was the first journalist to come on the record and say, "Andy Coulson definitely knew about this, firsthand. I promise you that that’s the case." And he kept on saying it, like the interview with you. He was really good. Because it was easy then for the Conservative Party, which was employing Andy Coulson, to deploy their members of Parliament to go out and smear Sean. They said, "Oh, well, he took drugs. You can’t believe him." Your spot—there’s absolutely no logic in that; that’s just a smear. So they gave him a good, old smearing.
And then the police, Scotland Yard, who were still in the phase when they were absolutely not interested in seeing the truth, they went around and interviewed him. But as soon as they come into the room, instead of saying, "OK, you’re an important witness," they said, "You’re a suspect. And anything you say could be used against you." So Sean used foul language and invited them to go. But he was good. He stood by his guns. I really liked him.
You know, it’s easy to look at an organization like the News of the World and see its ruthless invasion of privacy, its lust for destroying people’s lives in order to make money, and assume that everybody within it is as bad as the organization. But in fact there were lots of individuals in there who worked there, smelled the smell, and walked out and left it. And there’s a lot of good people who have helped us along the way....read much, much more