LONDON (Reuters) - A former reporter on the News of the World newspaper, the defunct News Corp British paper at the heart of phone-hacking and corruption allegations, said he lost his job as crime correspondent because he refused to bribe police officers.
Jeff Edwards, who worked for the paper from 1981 until 1985, said in a statement to the inquiry into press ethics on Wednesday he had been told by the news editor to offer bribes because he was failing to produce enough stories.
“I explained to him the job was difficult and his response was something to the effect that ‘we have plenty of money available, let your contacts in the police know that we will reward them for good information’,” Edwards said.
He said he refused to do and a few weeks later, the issue was raised again when the news editor angrily told him he should be paying officers.
Edwards, who went on to be the Daily Mail’s crime correspondent for 17 years, said he was upset and that their job was to expose hypocrisy and corruption and “yet here we were with him instructing me to bribe police officers”.
“I think this was probably the final nail in my coffin because I remember him becoming angry and saying words to the effect that ‘If you will not do my bidding I will find someone who will,’” he said. The following week Edwards said he was replaced as crime correspondent.
London police are currently investigating allegations that journalists made illegal payments to public officials in return for information and have made numerous arrests, including a number of people working for Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper arm News International.
That probe is running alongside the investigation into the illegal hacking of voicemail messages of mobile phones also centered on News International.
Any proven bribery by journalists on Murdoch’s papers could lead to U.S. authorities taking action against News Corp under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act resulting in possible fines of millions of dollars and criminal charges against individuals.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison