I have changed my mind since first hearing about the Milly Dowler phone hacking. Initially, I was surprised that people were more horrified by it than they were about any of the other phone hacking revelations to date. If it is illegal, people should be prosecuted.

I think there are two salient differences here:

  1. NOTW was illegally accessing a private citizen’s voicemail (ignoring the emotional horror of her being dead during the hacking). This is not a celebrity or public figure who has made a pact with the devil: it is nearly impossible have publicity and privacy at the same time.
  2. NOTW interfered with an ongoing police investigation (making the investigators believe that Milly Dowler might still be alive. Again, ignoring the emotional pain inflicted on her parents).

I’ve seen all sorts of responses to this from requiring Murdoch and Son to be banned from holding directorships in the UK to sacking everyone. I’m not sure what the right response is, but there must be one.

Could it lead to the eventual unravelling of News Corp? I think not, but I hope this grotesquery has a meaningful and positive impact on journalism around the world.