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Ex-Prime Ministerial Aide Arrested In British Hacking Scandal


News Corporation International chief executive Rupert Murdoch (right) with executive Rebekah Brooks, a former "News of the World" editor who is currently under intense media scrutiny (file photo)
Police in Britain have arrested a former editor of the "News of the World," in connection with the phone-hacking scandal that brought down the tabloid.

Andy Coulson, a former spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron, was arrested on suspicion of corruption and phone hacking.

The newspaper's onetime royal editor, Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 for phone-hacking at the tabloid, was also arrested over corruption allegations.

The arrests came as top politicians of various shades called for the country's press watchdog to be replaced in the wake of the growing scandal.

The "News of the World's" alleged hacking of the phones of celebrities, crime victims, and families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan prompted Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate, News Corporation, to announce the closure of the 168-year-old newspaper on July 7.

Coulson has denied any knowledge of phone hacking during his 2003-07 tenure at the paper.

Press 'Not Above The Law'

Minutes before the news of Coulson's arrest emerged, Cameron defended his decision to give Coulson a "second chance" and employ him as his director of communications in 2007, a job he has since left.

Former "News of the World" editor Andy Coulson leaves his home in London in January.
Cameron also promised a full public inquiry led by a judge to investigate how the phone-hacking scandal took root and how an earlier police inquiry in 2006 "failed so abysmally."

Insisting that the current self-regulation of the press by the Press Complaints Commission has "failed," he said a second inquiry would look at the "the culture and ethics" of the British press.

"It is vital that our press is free. That is an essential component for our democracy, for our way of life," Cameron said.

"But press freedom does not mean that the press should be above the law," he added. "Yes, there is much excellent journalism in Britain today, but I think it's now clear to everyone that the way the press is regulated today is not working."

Watchdog A 'Toothless Poodle'

Cameron's comments were echoed a short while later by his deputy, Nick Clegg, who said the U.K.'s press watchdog was "busted" and needed to be replaced.

Clegg said the scandal had destroyed trust in the press and marked "the total collapse of yet another pillar of the British establishment."

And the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, described the watchdog as a "toothless poodle" that should be put "out of its misery."

The printed media regulates itself under the commission, an industry-funded, voluntary body, that sets a code of conduct.

The watchdog responded to Cameron's comments by saying: "We do not accept that the scandal of phone-hacking should claim, as a convenient scalp, the Press Complaints Commission. The work of the PCC, and of a press allowed to have freedom of expression, has been grossly undervalued today."

Meanwhile, staff at the "News of the World" reacted with shock to news that News International will close the tabloid after this Sunday's edition.

Its political editor, David Wooding, said the closure came as a "bombshell" and that 200 jobs would be lost due to the actions of a few people.

compiled from agency reports