London, Jul 8: Britain's raging phone hacking scandal, where money was swapped for scoops, prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to promise sweeping changes in press regulations today as a former editor of the collapsed tabloid ‘News of the World' was arrested.
Calling it a ‘cathartic moment', an embarrassed Cameron, whose former communications director Andy Coulson was arrested today, also vowed to launch a full investigation into the scandal that has shaken the British media like never before.
And in a second major development, NOTW's former royal editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking, was re-arrested over allegations of corruption relating to payments to police.
Cameron said the existing laws had failed to prevent malpractices and instituted two inquiries to look into the case. While one public inquiry will look into the phone-hacking scandal, the other will make recommendations on ethics and culture of the press.
The Press Complaints Commission, seen to be ineffectual, is likely to be scrapped soon.
Calling the phone-hacking scandal a ‘cathartic moment and a crisis', Cameron said the press regulations in Britain, probably the oldest in the world, had failed and a new body, independent of the government and the news industry, was needed to regulate the media.
Personally embarrassed by his closeness with media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his executives, Cameron said in a candid press conference that “we are all in this together”, and blamed both politicians and press for the mess.
Coulson's arrest took place while Cameron was defending his decision to hire him while announcing the setting up of two inquiries to look into the scandal and its ethical implications for British journalism.
Coulson, 43, is also being questioned about allegations that police officers were bribed for information during his time as editor of the 168-year-old tabloid whose closure was announced yesterday in a shock announcement. He presented himself at a south London police station and is in custody.
The NOTW collapse comes at an embarrassing time for its owner Murdoch, who is seeking government clearance in a bid to take full control of the BSkyB, a price far more valuable than his British stable of newspapers.
The shares of the News International Corp and BSkyB have been plunging all week over the controversy. But there were still question marks over whether Murdoch would float a new tabloid in place of NOTW.
Police also said they had re-arrested Goodman, the former royal editor, who was jailed in 2007 for hacking the voicemails of Princes William and Harry. The 53-year-old was apprehended at his house on corruption charges. Several NOTW journalists have been arrested and quizzed over the hacking allegations, but Coulson is by far the biggest fish.
Coulson had earlier resigned from the tabloid and Cameron said he decided to give him a ‘second chance' as the director of communications.
Earlier this year, Coulson resigned this post due to allegations related to his past role as editor of the tabloid. He had denied knowledge of phone hacking while he was editor.
Cameron said: “I became friends with him and I think he did his job for me in a very effective way. He became a friend and he is a friend”. PTI