The campaign, called "Hacked Off", will be officially launched by Lord Fowler, Lord Cunningham, Chris Bryant MP, Mark Lewis, Adrian Sanders MP, Professor Brian Cathcart, and Media Standards Trust director Martin Moore.
They will call for an inquiry to examine five key points:
- The extent of the use of illegal information-gathering methods by the press, directly and through intermediaries;
- The conduct of the Metropolitan Police Service in investigating these matters, and its relations with the press;
- The communication between press and politicians in relation to these matters;
- The conduct of the Press Complaints Commission and of the Information Commissioner, and of other relevant parties such as mobile telephone companies;
- The lessons to be learned from these events and actions to be taken to ensure they are not repeated.
A cross-party early day motion was entered two weeks ago as part of the campaign, and has already gained 36 signatures. Behind the motion were Labour MP Tom Watson, Conservative Peter Bottomley and Liberal Democrat Adrian Sanders.
Speaking to Journalism.co.uk today, Media Standards Trust director Martin Moore said that a public inquiry was the only way to "shine some sunlight" onto the practice.
"A public inquiry is essential to find out what actually happened, not just at the News of the World but at a much broader level within the press and about the relationship between the press and the police and the telecoms companies.
"There are a lot of people with vested interests, all of whom seem to have been quite keen not to look into this matter for the past five years.
"We've been talking about this issue for a long time, but much of the press has been keen not to report it at all."
Moore praised the Guardian's Nick Davies, who he said had been an exception. It was Davies who broke the story of the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone.
Moore added that without an inquiry, the extent of the so-called "dark arts" practised by newspapers would not come to light.
"The reason for the urgency of this inquiry now, quite separate to the Milly Dowler situation, is the civil cases, which are leading to only some of the information getting into the public domain.
"Those cases are being successfully closed down, they will be mostly settled.
"And the problem with the criminal prosecutions is that they have focused on specific people, which they have to do of course but because of that, much of the broader issues won't come out in those cases.
"Particularly if those people charged plead guilty and go directly to sentencing, in which case there's a very good chance we could get to November with no more disclosure and we won't know the answers to basic questions.
"We need to shine some sunlight onto it. There are bags and bags of files, and there is good chance we won't see a lot of it unless there is a public inquiry.
Writing on the Index on Censorship blog, journalism lecturer and fellow campaign organiser Brian Cathcart shared Moore's concern.
Cathcart, who is also working on the campaign, said the need for an inquiry "has become urgent", claiming that "there has been every sign that without one the scandal will be killed off by the year’s end".
"Lawyers following these cases warn that every person charged may plead guilty, just as Mulcaire and royal reporter Clive Goodman did back in 2007.
"That would mean there would be no trials, just short agreed narratives and brief sentencing hearings. Nothing about the wider issues would come out.
"So if you have any interest in knowing the truth about the hacking scandal — and the Dowler allegations demonstrate vividly that we all have such an interest, no matter how innocent and ordinary we may be — then your only hope is a public inquiry."
Cathcart added that the campaign will have "a manifesto, a petition, dozens of distinguished supporters and soon a programme of public events".
According to a release from the MST, other supporters of the campaign include Lord Fowler, Professor Onora O’Neill, Francis Wheen, Tom Watson MP, Dr Ben Goldacre, Baroness Helena Kennedy, Sir David Bell, DD Guttenplan, Professor Roy Greenslade, Professor Ian Hargreaves, John Lloyd, Isabel Hilton, Ian Jack, John Pilger, Richard Peppiatt, Andreas Whittam Smith, and Kevin Marsh.
A petition for the inquiry is now live at www.hackinginquiry.org.
Image by Stefan Rousseu/PA
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