Corrected: Murdoch internal watchdog seeks improved security

Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:27pm EDT

News International Chairman, James Murdoch (L), his father Rupert (C), and a minder are seen leaving the Stafford Hotel in central London in this July 10, 2011 file photograph. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/Files

News International Chairman, James Murdoch (L), his father Rupert (C), and a minder are seen leaving the Stafford Hotel in central London in this July 10, 2011 file photograph.

Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris/Files

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(Reuters) - A senior member of the unit Rupert Murdoch created to clean up reporting practices at his British newspapers has consulted a private firm about improving the security system at his home, a spokesman for the official said.

The spokesman said there was no link between the consultation and Will Lewis' role as a key member of the Management and Standards Committee (MSC) Murdoch's News Corp created last year to respond to uproar over phone-hacking and other activities by his British newspapers. He also denied an earlier Reuters story that Lewis had hired a private security firm for personal protection.

The former editor of the business pages of Murdoch's London Sunday Times consulted the security firm because the burglar alarm system at his home had not been functioning properly, the spokesman said.

Sources close to the company said Lewis had hired a private security firm for personal protection amid what was described as an atmosphere of fear and paranoia among journalists who still work for Murdoch's three remaining UK newspapers.

"Mr. Lewis has not hired a private security firm to protect his house. He has a normal home security alarm which he has not been happy with for a while," a spokesman said. "He has requested another firm to provide a quote for an alternative system. They have not yet provided the quote and he has not yet changed the system."

Officials for Murdoch's News Corp in New York and News International in London declined to comment.

Lewis rejoined the Murdoch organization in 2010 and last year joined the MSC, which the company created to deal with growing controversy over allegations of widespread voice mail hacking by journalists at the News of the World.

Murdoch shut down the Sunday tabloid last summer amid an uproar over allegations that its journalists had hacked into the voice mail of a schoolgirl who was kidnapped and murdered.

The MSC's stated mission was to oversee internal investigations into the company's journalistic practices and to liaise with outside parties, including police and other government entities, conducting parallel investigations.

It also will set up new editorial policies and procedures at Murdoch's UK newspapers to ensure ethical behavior.

A source close to the MSC added: "Nothing will stop Will (Lewis) and (fellow MSC member) Simon (Greenberg) from carrying out the work of the Management and Standards Committee."

In recent weeks, the MSC provided key evidence which led police investigating alleged questionable payments to public officials to conduct a series of high-level arrests of journalists from The Sun, Murdoch's daily British tabloid.

Top Sun editors and journalists were among those arrested on suspicion of corruption and aiding or abetting misconduct in a public office. No criminal charges have been filed.

Key evidence which the MSC has turned over to police includes material extracted from a cache of 300 million emails. The MSC assembled the emails from data which some company officials allegedly attempted to delete.

In the wake of the latest arrests at The Sun, sources inside Murdoch's publishing campus at Wapping, East London, said that a sense of outrage and dismay had grown among company journalists.

Earlier this week, it was reported that two Sun journalists who had been arrested had attempted suicide. One incident allegedly took place on Monday.

A company source said that in the wake of the arrests and the growing rank-and-file distrust of the MSC and the company's management and owners, there was "no doubt that a number of people in the company are suffering serious mental issues."

(The first paragraph of the story "Murdoch internal watchdog seeks improved security" on March 7, mischaracterizes the context of comments made by a spokesman for Will Lewis at News Corporation's Management and Standards Committee. The spokesman confirmed that Lewis had asked someone to improve the security system at his home. But the story should have made immediately clear that the spokesman denied this had any connection to Lewis' role in the company's investigations. The corrected story adds context from an earlier report that sources close to the company said Lewis hired a security firm for personal protection.)

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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