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Questioning journalism ethics

This is the crux of debate in the U.K. today after a surge of phone-hacking revelations have been discovered,  most recently involving the Milly Dowler case.

Milly Dowler

Cailly Morris

Although phone hacking violates the United Kingdom’s section 1 of the Criminal Law Act of 1977, the use by some journalists continues to rise.

Seek the Truth and Report it — the journalist mantra, but what happens when seeking the truth requires an invasion of someone’s privacy? Should a journalist use ethical discretion when revealing information to the public?

This is the crux of debate in the U.K. today after a surge of phone-hacking revelations have been discovered — most recently involving the Milly Dowler case.

According to detectives from Scotland Yard, the News of the World journalists intercepted and deleted the voicemails of Milly Dowler — making friends and relatives of Milly conclude wrongfully that she might still be alive. Police also feared that important evidence into her disappearance could have been deleted.

“It is distress heaped upon tragedy to learn that the News of the World had no humanity at such a terrible time,” said Mark Lewis, the lawyer of the Dowler family. “The fact that they were prepared to act in such a heinous way that could have jeopardized the police investigation and give them false hope is despicable.”

Pressure on News International has grown recently to redefine the limits on phone hacking in journalism today after the prime minister joined in the dissatisfaction of the News of the World newspaper.

David Cameron described the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone as a “truly dreadful act,” and is urging the police to do a full investigation.

“What I’ve read in the papers is quite shocking, that someone could do this knowing that the police were trying to find this person and find out what happened,” said Cameron. “There is a police investigation into hacking allegations…they should pursue this in the most vigorous way that they can in order to get to the truth of what happened.”

According to BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston, Rebekah Brooks, editor of the News of the World newspaper at the time of the hacking is not planning to resign, and that Rupert Murdoch “is backing [Brooks] 100 percent.”

“Everyone across the country will be deeply disturbed and horrified at this shocking news,” said Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper. “The idea that private investigators working for a newspaper would hack into the phone of a missing 13-year-old girl is truly despicable.”

News International has currently acknowledged the wrongdoings of the newspaper and is taking steps to reform management in a way that would prevent any recurrence of what they regard as extreme practices by journalists.

Other targets of phone hacking in the past year include actress Sienna Miller, Sports Commentator Andy Gray, and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton.

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