Rupert Murdoch has told journalists at his top-selling tabloid The Sun that he will launch a Sunday version of the paper “very soon,” confirming rumours circulating since last summer that the 81-year-old media tycoon would seek to publish an alternative to the now-defunct News of the World Sunday tabloid.
In an email sent to staff shortly after arriving at the London headquarters of News International on Friday, Murdoch said: “We will build on The Sun’s proud heritage by launching The Sun on Sunday very soon,” according to The Guardian.
Murdoch also lifted all staff suspensions pending police inquiries, and confirmed that he will stay in London for several weeks to show his “unwavering support” for staff at News International, the main UK subsidiary of the US-based News Corporation, of which Murdoch is chairman and chief executive.
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Ten current and former senior staff at The Sun have been taken into custody by UK police since November in connection with alleged corrupt payments to public officials.
Labour Party MP Chris Bryant, a campaigner against and victim of phone hacking by News of the World reporters, called the decision to lift staff suspensions “cynical” and hypocritical:
“It is massively premature because one would have thought the Murdoch empire would wait until Leveson had completed his inquiry and the police and prosecuting authorities had completed their investigations,” he said, according to the BBC.
“News International has tirelessly campaigned for people who have been charged to be suspended from public office and yet journalists who have been charged at News International are apparently not going to be suspended.”
Murdoch shut the News of the World down in July of last year after it emerged that staff employed by the paper had hacked the phones of public figures. The scandal led to three police probes and an ongoing inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson to examine press standards and ethics in the UK.
In his email to staff today Murdoch praised the “superb work” of Sun journalists, adding that “The Sun is part of me,” and “having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics.”
He also said that those arrested would have their legal expenses covered by News Corporation, the Agence France Presse reported, as “everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.”
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