Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate announced today that it is closing down 168-year-old News of the World, Britain's biggest Sunday tabloid currently embroiled in an intensifying scandal over alleged phone hacking of celebrities, families of terror victims and a murdered girl.
James Murdoch, who heads News International's European operations, said the paper will publish its last edition Sunday.
Murdoch told the staff that the paper's good deeds "have been sullied by behavior that was wrong; indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company.
"The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself," James Murdoch, Rupert's son, said. "Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued."
Murdoch said the final edition will be ad free, with circulation revenue donated to charity. "These are strong measures. They are made humbly and out of respect. I am convinced they are the right thing to do," he said.
The News of the World's alleged hacking had affected News Corp.'s stock price and raised questions about the company's proposed takeover of British Sky Broadcasting.
As the scandal continues to unravel, its scope is becoming clear. London's Metropolitan Police say detectives are now analyzing and sifting through 11,000 pages of material, evidence that contains 4,000 names from the paper. The police have asked for patience as these thousands of possible victims are reached in the probe.
The allegations paint the journalists at News of the World as callous reporters who would apparently stop at nothing to get a tabloid headline. Actor Hugh Grant, who himself was hacked by the News of the World, lashed out at one of the paper's former reporters on the BBC saying ''you guys had no morals, no scruples at all, you didn't care who got hurt, just as long as you were able to sell your newspaper for a lot of money. Your only motive was profit.''
The paper is also alleged to have sent payments to Scotland Yard officers. The details of the alleged payments of tens of thousands of dollars surfaced on Wednesday after emails were sent to police by News International as part of its internal investigation.
Even more damaging, potentially, is that they reportedly also show that the payments were authorized by British Prime Minister David Cameron's former spokesman, Andy Coulson, when he was editing the News of the World. This investigation will be overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The IPCC's Deputy Chairwoman Deborah Glass told the BBC she would personally supervise the "robust" inquiry to give "independent oversight". There are newspaper reports claiming that several people will likely to be arrested within days.
James Murdoch said the paper had wrongly maintained that the hacking was limited to one reporter. "We now have voluntarily given evidence to the police that I believe will prove that this was untrue and those who acted wrongly will have to face the consequences. This was not the only fault. The paper made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts. This was wrong."
Meanwhile, the relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been told they could be victims with journalists from the News of the World listening into their conversations. So far there is no evidence to substantiate these claims but the names of dead soldiers have reportedly been found in the News of the World documents. Gen. David Richards, the head of the British armed forces told the AP "If these actions are proved to have been verified, I am appalled."
Police have also warned Princess Diana's then boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed's family lawyer Michael Mansfield that his voice mails could have been hacked into when he represented the Al Fayeds during the inquiry into their deaths. Mansfield has reportedly received a letter from Scotland Yard saying he too was on a list of possible targets. Mansfield said that claims journalists may have been trying to uncover stories about Diana from his messages was "particularly disturbing." Diana's former lover James Hewitt is suing the News of the World for invasion of privacy over allegations that his phone was hacked, his lawyer has said.
News International is part of media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media conglomerate. Murdoch also owns Fox News, The Wall St. Journal and New York Post. On Wednesday, he released a statement saying, "Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the News of the World are deplorable and unacceptable."