Five top editors and reporters from the News Corp.-owned Sun newspaper were arrested in London on Saturday morning opening a new scandal at another flagship paper for the media conglomerate.
News International chief executive Tom Mockridge (pictured), who replaced disgraced executive Rebekah Brooks and is responsible for The Sun, announced the news in a memo to his staff.
"I am very saddened that a further five colleagues from The Sun have been arrested this morning by the Police," he wrote.
Mockridge said that deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker and deputy news editor John Sturgis had all been arrested in an investigation into payoffs to police and public officials.
They are being investigated on suspicion of corruption, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office and conspiracy. They are being questioned at police stations in London and Kent. Police officers have also been arrested.
The news came as a shock to the newspaper staff and its executives, and comes in the wake of last year’s closure of News of the World in a phone hacking scandal.
But News Corp. announced in a statement that it had provided the information to police that led to the arrests.
In a statement, the company said that its Management and Standards Committee had provided information to the police investigators.
"News Corporation remains committed to ensuring that unacceptable news gathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated and last summer authorised the MSC to co-operate with the relevant authorities."
The Guardian reported that Murdoch was flying to London to deal with the scandal.
In his memo, Mockridge said that Murdoch was committed to keeping the paper open. "I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper."
Two weeks ago four former and current Sun journalists as well as a London police officer were arrested over alleged illegal police payments.
Senior Sun employees Chris Pharo, 42, and Mike Sullivan, along with former executives Fergus Shanahan, 57, and Graham Dudman, were named by sources as suspects facing corruption allegations, according to the Guardian. All five were released on bail.
Here is the full memo from Mockridge:
I am very saddened that a further five colleagues from The Sun have been arrested this morning by the Police. It has already been widely reported the individuals involved are Geoff Webster, John Edwards, John Kay, John Sturgis and Nick Parker.
This news is difficult for everyone on The Sun and particularly for those of you who work closely with those involved. Some of the individuals arrested have been instrumental in breaking important stories about public bodies, for example the scandal of our under resourced troops in Iraq.
We must take care not to pre-judge the outcome of the police interviews. It is vitally important for all those involved that proper due process should take its course. The company has provided legal support to those interviewed today.
I remind you that News Corporation has empowered an independent body, the MSC, to cooperate fully with the Police. The MSC has reiterated to me that this is being carried out with regard to the protection of legitimate journalistic sources.
In light of these further developments, I have today written to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to seek clarification from them about the process of independent oversight of the Police investigation.
I understand the pressure many of you are under and have the greatest admiration for everyone's continued professionalism. The Sun has a proud history of delivering ground-breaking journalism. You should know that I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper.
Today we are facing our greatest challenge. Dominic is committed to leading the paper through this difficult period and, while today's arrests are shocking, we need to support him and his team to serve the loyal readers of The Sun and produce a great paper for Monday.