Wednesday 17 January 2018

Quality paper basks in glory while red top is in dock

The Guardian editor may be a crusader for transparency, but he is not a role model

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden
The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger
Former Editor of the News of the World newspaper Andy Coulson. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Last week Andy Coulson, ex-editor of the News of the World (NotW) and one-time communications supremo in No 10 Downing Street, was in the Old Bailey being cross-examined about charges of conspiracy to intercept mobile phone messages illegally and commit misconduct in public office.

Yet Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, which has printed reams of information stolen from the US National Security Agency (NSA) by contractor Edward Snowden, was basking in congratulations on the Pulitzer Prize awarded to his paper for helping "through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy". It wasn't an unexpected accolade from what is a liberal redoubt.

Both men defend their actions as in the public interest, but take a dim view of the behaviour of the other. Rusbridger was proud that his paper brought about Coulson's ultimate downfall with its revelations about the tapping of the phone of a missing teenager, Milly Dowler. Yet it was what proved to be a wholly inaccurate though frequently repeated Guardian allegation – that NotW journalists had deleted some of her texts and thus given her family false hope that she was alive – that triggered widespread public revulsion and led Rupert Murdoch to take the desperate step of closing a successful newspaper.

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