News Corp’s Sunday broadsheet the Sunday Times has reportedly banned the use of subterfuge — including the use of pseudonyms and alter egos — in the wake of the News Of The World phone hacking scandal, according to The Guardian.
The Guardian reported Friday that according to its sources at the Times, an order has “come from the very top” of News International to ban reporters from engaging in any subterfuge in order to get stories — even though many of the banned practices are allowed under British law and the Press Complaints Commission code.
A Guardian source said that the paper’s editor John Witherow gave the order, and that “we have been forced to do it.”
The PCC code says that “engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.”
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has accused the Times of hacking his phone, medical, and bank records over a period of ten years. Brown alleged that in 2006, the Times and the tabloid The Sun used subterfuge to discover that Brown’s son had cystic fibrosis.
The New York Times reported that at the time, The Sunday Times said it had “pursued the story in the public interest” and had followed the PCC code. “No law was broken in the process of this investigation,” the Times said.
News International, which publishes all of News Corp’s U.K. newspapers, has been battling wide-ranging allegations that its reporters — for the tabloid News Of The World and otherwise — engaged in illegal practices like phone and computer hacking to obtain stories. The story exploded after revelations that NOTW hacked the phone of 13-year old murder victim Milly Dowler.