Steve Coogan: phone-hacking ruling reveals ‘systemic concealment’ | Steve Coogan | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Steve Coogan has said the Duke of Sussex’s partial victory in a high court phone-hacking claim shows there is an “omertà … of systemic concealment by the press” and has called for a bolstered system of independent regulation.

The British actor and comedian, who is involved with the Hacked Off campaign, reiterated his calls for press reform after Prince Harry won a substantial part of his case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

The high court judge concluded on Friday that there was “extensive” phone hacking by MGN from 2006 to 2011. Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that out of a representative sample of 33 articles about the prince examined during the trial, 15 were the product of phone hacking or unlawful information gathering. The judge also found that there was “hacking even to some extent” during the Leveson inquiry into media standards.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Coogan said the ruling showed that there was “an omertà, a collusion, of systemic concealment by the press”. “The judge said there can be no doubt that the editors knew about deception and unlawful information gathering,” he said, adding that “for years, we were told this lie about one rogue reporter”.

Coogan called for the press watchdog, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), to be replaced with a stronger regulator, describing the body as “toothless”. “We need some kind of body that will protect those journalists who are doing their job brilliantly – there are many brave, inspirational, tenacious journalists out there, and [they] hold to account those who abuse their power,” he said.

He said the “millions” in damages the Mirror had paid out, including money awarded to him, was “money that could have been spent paying journalists to do genuine public interest journalism”. Coogan received hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages from the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People in 2017 after it admitted hacking his phone.

The Metropolitan police said on Friday they would “carefully consider” the ruling. In 2012, the Leveson report criticised the Met for errors in its handling of the phone-hacking scandal, stating that there were concerns that some senior officers had become too close to News International.

The judge on Friday ruled there could be “no doubt” that Piers Morgan, the Mirror’s editor between 1995 and 2004, and other senior executives knew about the practice of phone hacking. Morgan denied he was aware of phone hacking during his time as editor. He said he had “never hacked a phone” while editor or told anyone else to do so.

While Coogan acknowledged the diminished power of the tabloid press over the past decade, he said it still wielded “enough power to influence the public discourse of this country and so they need to be held accountable”. “All public bodies are accountable – the press should be no different.”

Sir Alan Moses, the former chair of Ipso, told the programme that there was a danger that discussions about regulation could result in “seeking to limit or destroy a part of the press … that has become very weak as it is”. He strongly refuted Coogan’s allegation that Ipso was “run by the press”. “It’s run by independent people … It’s ridiculous to regard them as controlled or toothless,” he said.

Asked why newspapers should be treated differently from the requirements on broadcasters such as the BBC, Moses said that “from time to time, it reveals things that a controlled, licensed press would never reveal”, adding: “The result of control by statutory limitation would outweigh the advantages of greater discipline.”


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