Celebrities fear a backlash from the British tabloid press if they speak out at an inquiry into media standards, comedian and actor Steve Coogan said overnight, adding that newspapers were like the Mafia in the way they operated.
The Leveson inquiry also heard claims supermodel Elle Macpherson fired an Australian aide after mistakenly accusing her of leaking stories that were in fact obtained through hacking by the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World.
And a lawyer for film star Hugh Grant warned that intimidatory newspaper tactics risked derailing the inquiry, ordered by prime minister David Cameron, after disclosures that reporters at the now defunct News of the World had hacked thousands of phones.
Coogan, best known in Britain for his portrayal of gauche TV presenter Alan Partridge, said he had lost count of the number of tabloid "kiss and tell" stories about him.
He denied a Daily Mail story from 2007 which alleged he took drugs with US actor Owen Wilson. He said at the time of the alleged episode he had not been in the same continent as the actor for nine months.
The inquiry, which opened last week, is shining a harsh light on Britain's aggressive tabloid press, which trades on stories about the lifestyles of the rich and famous....read more