Posted on 5th Apr 2012 @ 1:33 PM
We all know about the News of the World celebrity hacking scandal by now, right? Well evidently, this was not an isolated incident. Now, British news channel Sky News released a statement today saying that on more than one occasion, they gave their journalists permission to illegally hack the emails of their report subjects. John Ryley, head of Sky News, said these hackings were allowed because they involved potentially criminal situations.
In a public statement released today, Ryley says: "We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest. We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently."
A private firm has now been put in charge of investigating the emails that were potentially hacked for damage control purposes. They want to ensure that no personal or financial information was stolen or misappropriated. So far, there have not been any indications that anything has been stolen.
"Sky News is committed to the highest editorial standards. Like other news organizations, we are acutely aware of the tensions that can arise between the law and responsible investigative journalism."
Ryley said that Sky News allowed a journalist to hack emails on two occasions because the report subject was involved with criminal activities and charges.
According to Ryley, one of the cases was that of Ms. Anne Darwin. In the Darwin case, Darwin’s husband faked his own death on a canoe trip so that the couple could cash in on his life insurance claim. Ryley maintains that she was only hacked because of the criminal charges and that any and all information taken was given directly to the police.
"Material provided by Sky News was used in the successful prosecution, and the police made clear after the trial that this information was pivotal to the case," Ryley said.
Ryley says that it was Sky News’ decision to come clean after another news publisher printed a story regarding Sky News’ involvement in the arrest of Darwin in 2008. Afterwards, Ryley went on to question the motivation and point behind the publication of the other article, noting that Sky News was not the first and certainly not the last news outlet to obtain information in illegal or unlawful ways.
"Some of the most important stories have involved breaking the rules in some way," Ryley said.
Labor member of Parliament Tom Watson, who has been a prominent figure in the probe into alleged phone hacking, told CNN the latest Sky News revelation was "pretty extraordinary."
Watson said he wanted the new chairman of BSkyB, Nick Ferguson, to say whether the company thinks the practice was more widespread, when the board was informed and what safeguards will be put in place to stop it happening again.
In his statement Thursday, Ryley said Sky News had commissioned an internal audit of payment records, alongside the external review of e-mail records.
Any impropriety found would be swiftly investigated, he said. "We believe these proactive steps, undertaken at our own initiative, form part of the good governance procedures to be expected of a responsible news organization."
London's Metropolitan Police are conducting three investigations into alleged misconduct by journalists.
One involves potential computer hacking on behalf of newspapers, a second is focused on alleged voicemail hacking, and the third concerns allegations of police bribery.
News Corp. shelved its plan to expand its ownership of BSkyB last summer as the phone hacking scandal broke.