Rebekah Brooks, the embattled CEO of News International, said she will not resign from her post in defiance of massive pressure on her from many quarters, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that led to the demise of her tabloid, the News of the World (NOTW).
Despite the likely loss of up to 200 jobs due to the planned closure of the NOTW, Brooks told a meeting of staff members at News International’s headquarter in Wapping, East London that she refuses to step down, but will be the “conductor” for the troubled period her company is surely to confront.
The meeting reportedly features unusually heavy security, with staff forbidden to carry phones or have internet access.
“You may be angry with me and that I understand, but I am angry with the people who did this and I feel bitterly betrayed,” she said at the meeting, according to reports.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that NOTW staff are enraged by the closure of the paper and are focusing their rage on Brooks.
The paper reported that the meeting was secretly tape recorded and Brooks is heard telling her staff: This is not exactly the best time in my life but I'm determined to get vindication for this paper and for all of you.
One staff member who attended the tense meeting told the paper: We turned up for work with a lot of enthusiasm, determined to make the last News of the World a great success. But when we got here we found security guards to keep an eye on us and our internet access blocked. We can't get on Facebook, personal email accounts have been totally blocked and lots of people are struggling to even get on the internet, which makes researching stories incredibly hard. We are being hung out to dry. The staff here now have done nothing wrong; we are innocent in all of this, as the people responsible for this mess no longer work here. It an absolute insult after they took our jobs away.
Brooks, whose resignation has been demanded by top politicians, including Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, told the staff she would help them find other jobs.
However, Brooks has the support of James Murdoch, the deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., the parent of News International.
James, the son of company chairman Rupert Murdoch, told Sky News: “I am satisfied that Rebecca’s leadership and standard of ethics and standard of conduct throughout her career are very good. Her leadership is crucial right now and [it] is what has been moving this inquiry forward.”
She also has the backing of Rupert Murdoch. Separately, Brooks told employees in an email that the international investigation of the hacking will be led by Joseph Klein, a senior executive at the company's owner, News Corp., in New York.
People have asked if it is right for me, as CEO of News International and as the Editor of the News of the World until January 2003, to oversee our efforts to assess allegations, address serious issues and prevent them from happening again, she wrote in the e-nail.
I'm determined that News International does this. For the avoidance of any doubt, however, the News Corporation independent directors agree with James Murdoch's recommendation that the Management and Standards Committee, comprised of Will Lewis, Simon Greenberg and Jeff Palker, report directly to Joel Klein in New York. Joel is leading and directing the company's overall handling of this matter.
Brooks added: James outlined the standards this company demands in his message to you yesterday. These standards apply to everyone, first and foremost to me as News International's chief executive.
Meanwhile, the police investigation into News International’s alleged phone-hacking activities is accelerating; Scotland yard has already arrested six people involved with the matter, including former editor at NOTW, Andy Coulson.
Brooks herself could eventually be a target of the police probe.
Coulson just happens to be a former top aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is desperately seeking to distance himself from the mess at News Intl.
“It won’t be a question of whether [they] have jobs or whether they are going to resign from those jobs,” Cameron told reporters at Downing Street.
“It’s a question of whether they are going to be prosecuted, whether they are going to be convicted, whether they are going to be punished. That is what is going to happen. I don’t know what these people at News International did know or didn’t know. Frankly, I don’t think any of us know. The key thing is that they are going to be investigated to the police.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.