2012/02/16

Sun journalists mull legal action as Murdoch flies in

LONDON, February 16, 2012 (AFP) - Journalists from Rupert Murdoch's The Sun have contacted a trade union to discuss suing the British tabloid's owners, the union said, after five staff members were arrested in a police bribery probe.

The news comes as Murdoch is due to visit London on Thursday or Friday to meet with journalists, after promising to continue publishing Britain's top-selling weekly despite the corruption row.

The Australian-born tycoon shut down The Sun's weekly stablemate, the News of the World, in July after it became embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal.

Police arrested five Sun journalists last weekend on suspicion of bribing public officials, after receiving information from a committee set up at Murdoch's News Corp. to investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

The arrests caused outrage in the newsroom and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said it was now looking at how to defend staff "against a management that seems prepared to throw them to the wolves".

"We have been approached by a group of journalists from the Sun. We are now exploring a number of ways to support them, including discussing legal redress," NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet said in a statement.

She said the issue at stake was the protection of sources, and suggested the journalists might use European human rights laws.

"The protection of sources is an essential principle which has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the European Court of Human Rights as the cornerstone of press freedom and the NUJ shall defend it," Stanistreet said.

Murdoch's office said the tycoon was due to fly to Britain this week to manage the latest crisis in his media empire.

In a email to staff when the journalists were arrested on February 11, Murdoch executive Tom Mockridge said the proprietor had given him a "personal assurance... about his total commitment" to publishing The Sun.