* Other Sun employees arrested last month
* Arrests raise questions about Sun newspaper's future
* Rupert Murdoch to fly to UK, "totally committed" to Sun
By Mohammed Abbas and Kate Holton
LONDON, Feb 11 British police on Saturday
arrested five senior staff at News Corporation's
mass-circulation newspaper The Sun as part of investigations
into journalists paying police for information.
The probe is part of a wider investigation into illegal news
gathering practices that has rocked Britain's political, media
and police establishments and last year prompted the closure of
the Sun's sister Sunday title, the News of the World.
Saturday's arrests came after the company passed information
to the police, a move that infuriated staff and sparked talk of
a witch hunt amongst journalists by a proprietor who previously
celebrated their work.
News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch is due in London next week and
is set to meet staff, a source familiar with the situation said.
Four current and former Sun staff had already been arrested
last month, and the latest detentions raise questions about the
viability of Britain's best selling daily.
News International chief executive Tom Mockridge sent a memo
to staff saying: "I have had a personal assurance today from
Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and
publish the Sun newspaper."
Sun editor Dominic Mohan said he was "as shocked as anyone
by today's arrests" but determined to keep fulfilling the
paper's "duty to serve our readers".
The source said the arrests included the Sun's deputy
editor, picture editor, chief reporter and two other senior
staff. Police said a serving police officer was among a total of
eight people arrested early on Saturday.
The source said a defence ministry employee and a member of
the armed forces were the others. The ministry declined comment.
MONDAY EDITION PLANNED
The current staff who were arrested in January have been
suspended by the paper, and the same fate is likely to await
those arrested on Saturday.
As no production staff have been arrested, the company
should be able to get a paper published on Monday. Staff who
were not due to work over the weekend volunteered their services
to make sure the paper was produced, said a second source close
to the situation.
Both sets of arrests resulted from information from News
Corp's Management and Standards Committee (MSC), a fact-finding
group the firm set up in a bid to rescue its reputation.
The MSC is working alongside up to 100 personnel from top
law firms as well as forensic advisers and computer experts
searching through more than 300 million emails, expense claims,
phone records and other documents. Some 15 or 20 police are
embedded with the team.
According to people familiar with the work of the MSC, the
project could take at least another 18 months. Piles of
paperwork that cannot fit in the offices are stored in
warehouses at another, secret location.
"The MSC provided the information to the 'Elveden'
investigation which led to today's arrests ... News Corporation
remains committed to ensuring that unacceptable news gathering
practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated," News
Corp said in a statement.
Murdoch shut the hugely popular News of the World last year
after a public outcry over revelations that its reporters hacked
the voicemail messages of celebrities and victims of crime.
MURDOCH TO QUIT NEWSPAPERS?
Steven Barnett, professor of communications at Westminster
University, London, said Saturday's arrests were particularly
damaging because they included senior current staff and were not
related to historical actions by former employees.
"This is huge. It will raise some very serious questions
about the viability of the Sun .... You then start to ask
questions about the extent to which News Corp, and Murdoch in
particular, may want to start getting out of newspapers
altogether," he said.
Murdoch also owns Britain's Times, which this year admitted
that one of its former reporters had hacked an e-mail account,
as well as the Wall Street Journal and New York Post among a
host of titles across the English-speaking world.
The octogenarian also has publishing, television and film
interests in Asia, Britain, the United States and elsewhere.
U.S. authorities are stepping up investigations, including
an FBI criminal inquiry, into possible violations by Murdoch
media employees of a U.S. law banning corrupt payments to
foreign officials such as police, law enforcement and corporate
London police said 40 people had been arrested in connection
with three police investigations into illegal news gathering
practices, but that no one had yet been charged.
Allegations of widespread phone hacking at the News of the
World prompted Britain's parliament, where many accuse Murdoch
of wielding too much political influence through his media
empire, to summon him and his executive son James to explain
themselves last year.
James Murdoch took charge of News International, the British
newspaper arm of News Corp, only once the hacking had stopped
but has been criticised for failing to stem the problem.
The scandal has already prompted the resignations of two top
police officials, who resigned over the handling of initial
investigations into media malpractice; of Rebekah Brooks, the
chief executive of Murdoch's London papers; and of Andy Coulson,
a former Murdoch editor who became Prime Minister David
Cameron's media adviser.