The disappearance and murder of thirteen-year-old Surrey schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, in March 2002 became a major investigation for Scotland Yard. Newspaper publication, News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch, illegally obtained information regarding the case and the Dowler family including Milly Dowler herself when they hacked into her mobile phone. They listened to all the private voicemails that were left for Milly by her family desperately imploring for Milly to get in touch with them, even going as far to delete some of the earliest ones from the first days of her disappearance, after the mailbox became full, in order to make room for new ones, wanting to source more information. This action gave the Dowler family false hope that Milly was alive, when in fact that unfortunately would be discovered dead, as they concluded that when they found they could leave her voicemails again that she must have been the one to erase the messages. Not only did this cause huge upset for the Dowler family, but it seriously hindered and obscured the police investigation as they already had very few leads to work from, and it destroyed potential evidence for the police to use. It shocks me that News of the World didn’t seem to see any fault in what they had done, in that they committed crimes that were calculated, heartless, and devastating to the Dowler family. This demonstrates the power of the media and how this power and freedom that comes with the press is abused so severely in ways that are so damaging to others, with the deluded thought that these actions don’t have consequences.
There is an air surrounding the media that proposes it is an untouchable entity. There is an ego that comes with the media. We as readers, observers, the public believe what news publications whether in print, on the TV, or online tell us. We are conditioned not only by the information that we are told, but we are conditioned in the manner in which this information is delivered to us with no questions asked. Why is this? Why do we feel confident enough in something that has this much power over how we are supplied with information? There is so much depth to this issue of the media, and in turn the internet, as vast entities that control so much of the public’s knowledge of world events. The News of the World phone hacking scandal is an example of how the media think that they have the right to any information they want, and will break the law to get it, abusing the power that the media provides them. In January 2007, five years after Milly Dowler’s disappearance, News of the World royal editor, Clive Goodman and hacker Glenn Mulcaire are convicted of phone hacking and its editor, Andy Coulson resigns. News International stated at this time that Goodman is a rogue reporter. Come 2011, Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup are arrested in connection the Dowler phone hacking and when chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks returns from holiday in the Caribbean, she too gets arrested. The Met Police suggest that there a possible 4,000 targets of hacking and James Murdoch announces that News of the World will close after running for 168 years with its final edition being published on July 10 2011 (See Figure 141). Six days later, Rupert Murdoch issues an apology in a full-page advert saying: “We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred.” and later goes on to tell the House of Commons Committee that appearing before it is “the most humbling day of my life”. Brooks resigns and is arrested in relation to the phone hacking and on October 27 2013, the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others begins. With The Guardian journalist, Nick Davies, writing that Rupert Murdoch’s money “washed through the ‘trial of the century’ like a Rolls-Royce. The story behind the News of the World scandal was not about journalists behaving badly, but the power of money and its abuses”, showcases just how much money supplies power to people in these types of situations when, in fact, they shouldn’t have any at all. In the trial, Andy Coulson was convicted of “conspiring to hack phones while he was editor of News of the World.” Rebekah Brooks was found not guilty of “four charges including conspiring to hack phones when she was editor of the News of the World and making corrupt payments to public officials when she was editor of the Sun. She was also cleared of two charges that she conspired with her former secretary and her husband to conceal evidence from the police investigating phone hacking in 2011.” The fact that Brooks evaded conviction for her clear involvement and deliberate criminal actions, particularly in the Dowler case, astounds me on so many levels. However, although the overall outcome frustrates me to no end, it is not at all surprising due to the influence attached to the mass financial backing she received from Rupert Murdoch.