Blair admits being too close to Murdoch
LONDON, May 28: Former British prime minister Tony Blair told a press ethics inquiry on Monday that he got too close to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, as a protester stormed in and branded him a “war criminal”.
Blair said it was inevitable that top politicians and media executives had a close interaction as he defended the way he courted Murdoch before and during his time in office from 1997 to 2007.
Blair said he had made a strategic decision not to take on the power of the press during that time, despite calls for tougher media regulation following the death of Diana, princess of Wales in 1997.
The 59-year-old said that had he done so, the “absolute major confrontation” required would come at the price of shelving his programme for office, which he felt was a bigger priority.
And he said the consequence of falling out with media chiefs would have been an all-out, lifelong, ferocious attack.
Blair said the chief problem with the British press was the blurring of boundaries between news and comment in some papers, where reporting is twisted into an “instrument of political power”.
He said the crossover had turned into a “very violent and aggressive” genre of attack.
But his message was interrupted by film-maker David Lawley Wakelin, who somehow emerged from the judges’ area to harangue Blair.
“This man should be arrested for war crimes,” he yelled, in reference to Blair sending Britain to war in Iraq during his time in office.
Wakelin was hustled out within 30 seconds but judge Brian Leveson, who is heading the inquiry, apologised to Blair and immediately ordered an investigation into how the protester had gained access to a secure area.
He was arrested on suspicion of a breach of the peace but was later released with no further action.—AFP