Rupert Murdoch announces launch of The Sun on Sunday
ITS staff have spent the week fearing for their futures in the wake of a series of controversial arrests.
But just months after the News of the World was closed down in the midst of phone hacking claims, newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch has thrown his weight behind the Sun – and confirmed plans for a Sunday edition.
The 81-year-old has told beleaguered staff that its new Sunday edition will start rolling off the presses soon. It is thought the new paper will launch within the next two months and will have a separate Scottish edition.
The News Corporation chief visited the paper’s newsroom to reassure journalists at the start of a visit to London that he pledged would last for several weeks.
The replacement for the News of the World will be launched “very soon”, he vowed, as he also confirmed 10 staff arrested over alleged corrupt payments would have their suspensions lifted.
The visit by Mr Murdoch was widely seen as a morale-booster by staff after another turbulent week, dogged by fresh allegations about payments made to public officials.
But Labour MP Chris Bryant, one of the leading figures in the campaign to expose phone hacking, said a new Sunday title from News Corp was “massively premature”.
Mr Murdoch pledged “unwavering support” for his journalists, but also vowed to root out any wrongdoing at News International.
Speculation has been rife ever since about the re-emergence of a Sunday title since the News of the World was closed down last year over allegations of the widespread use of phone-hacking by staff.
Yesterday, in an e-mail to staff at the Wapping HQ, Murdoch said News International had a duty to launch the Sun on Sunday in order “to expand one of the world’s most widely-read newspapers and reach even more people than ever before”.
He added: “We will build on the Sun’s proud heritage by launching the Sun on Sunday very soon. Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics.
“I am even more determined to see the Sun continue to fight for its readers and its beliefs. I am staying with you all, in London, for the next several weeks to give you my unwavering support. I am confident we will get through this together and emerge stronger.”
The Sun has been rocked by the arrests of 10 journalists since November over alleged corrupt payments to public officials.
The scale of the arrests – five of which came last weekend – raised fears that the Sun might suffer the same fate as its former stablemate.
Some journalists have expressed anger over claims that News Corporation’s management standards committee, formed to clean up the company following the phone-hacking scandal, gave police information that led to the arrests.
While Mr Murdoch said illegal activities “simply cannot and will not be tolerated”, he insisted that journalists’ “legitimate” confidential sources would be protected.
He added: “We’re doing everything we can to assist those who are arrested. All suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise.
“We will obey the law. Illegal activity simply cannot and will not be tolerated at any of our publications.”
Mr Murdoch spoke to a number of reporters on the Sun’s newsroom floor accompanied by his eldest son, Lachlan.
A source played down the significance of the absence of Mr Murdoch’s younger son James, who is chairman of News International.
The source said: “James Murdoch has other commitments and is out of the country, and asked Lachlan to accompany his father.”
However, Mr Bryant hit at yesterday’s announcement by the tycoon: “He [Mr Murdoch] is meant still to be ‘draining the swamp’ and yet the swamp is meant to produce another newspaper.”
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