News International in Wapping, London, Yui Mok/PA News of the World offices Credit: Yui Mok/PA
The News of the World has announced that it is to close, with the final edition to be published this Sunday.

News International chairman James Murdoch told staff this afternoon: "Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper.

"This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World."

The 168-year-old Sunday title has been rocked by mounting allegations of criminality this week, including phone hacking and paying Met police officers for information.

The paper employs just less than 200 staff. A spokesperson for News International could not confirm whether they faced redundancy.

But in an apparent indication that staff would be laid off, Murdoch told staff: "I can understand how unfair these decisions may feel. Particularly, for colleagues who will leave the company. Of course, we will communicate next steps in detail and begin appropriate consultations."

A spokesperson for the National Union of Journalists told Journalism.co.uk this afternoon that it understood all 200 staff at the tabloid were going to be fired.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said in a separate statement: "Closing the title and sacking over 200 staff in the UK and Ireland, and putting scores more freelances and casuals out of a job, is an act of utter cynical opportunism."

Murdoch, son of News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, said that he was "proud to be part of News Corp", adding that its "commitment to journalism and a free press is one of the things that sets us apart".

But he added: "The good things the News of the World does, however, have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company."

Murdoch admitted that News of the World and News International had "wrongly maintained" that the phone hacking had been confined to one reporter and that the paper "made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts".

He also apologised for making out-of-court settlements in civil phone-hacking cases:

"The company paid out-of-court settlements approved by me. I now know that I did not have a complete picture when I did so. This was wrong and is a matter of serious regret."

He goes on to acknowledge that the company "failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose".

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who had repeatedly called for News International chief executive and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks to stand down, told the BBC: "It's a big act but I don't think it solves the real issues.

"One of the people who's remaining in her job is the chief executive of News International who was the editor at the time of the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone."

He reiterated his call for Brooks to resign: "She should go, take responsibility."

There are reports that News International intends to extend the Sun to a seven-day operation, but a spokesperson for the company said today that it could not confirm whether it would continue to publish a Sunday tabloid.

News International seemed to be shifting towards an integration of the Sun and the News of the World before the phone hacking scandal led to the Sunday title's closure, with Brooks announcing in June that the company was looking to "find ways of introducing seven day working."

The News of the World was purchased by Rupert Murdoch in 1968 and was his first UK newspaper.

It is the UK's largest-selling paper, with the most recent ABC figures showing an average circulation of 2.66 million.

As a result of mounting allegations of phone hacking at the title, including reports that private investigators were paid to access the voicemails of the families of 7/7 bombings victims and families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a large number of major brands pulled advertising from the title over the past two days.

Then earlier today the Royal British Legion announced that it was severing ties with the tabloid as a campaign partner.

See the full News International statement on Journalism.co.uk at this link.

See full Journalism.co.uk phone hacking coverage at this link.

Image: Yui Mok/PA

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