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Former British PM Brown appears in front of media ethics hearing

posted 11 Jun 2012, 05:16 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Jun 2012, 05:16 ]

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown criticises tabloids for sensationalising coverage of UK involvement in Afghanistan, and vehemently denies News International claims he gave them permission to run a front page story about his son's Cystic Fibrosis.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JUNE 11, 2012) (ITN) - Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry on Monday (June 11), kicking off what is certain to be another dramatic week for an inquiry that has revealed collusion between politicians and the Murdoch media empire.

Later on Monday, finance minister George Osborne will appear, while Prime Minister David Cameron is due on Thursday (June 14). They will face accusations they bent government policy to support media baron Rupert Murdoch when they appear at a high-profile inquiry into press ethics next week.

During his testimony, Brown heavily criticised News International for sensationalising coverage of serious issues like the UK's involvement in Afghanistan.

"The whole weight of their coverage wasn't what we had done and whether we had done the right thing, but was that I personally did not care about our troops in Afghanistan, and that is where you conflate fact and opinion. And when you descend into sensationalism you actually make it not an issue about honest mistakes or matters of judgment, but about evil intentions. And so you can laugh about it now, and I do laugh about it sometimes - if you pick up a newspaper and you find that you've failed to bow at the Cenotaph and that is an example of how 'he doesn't care about our troops in Afghanistan' - first of all that story wasn't true and second of all that's not the conclusion that should have been drawn. You have then a story before that, that you fell asleep at the Festival of Remembrance - you were actually praying and you were bowing your head - and one newspaper decides, and this was The Sun and I will name it, decides that was an example of someone falling asleep and dishonouring the troops, and again you don't care," he said.

He was asked about his recollection of a 2006 front-page Sun splash revealing that his four-month old son Fraser had cystic fibrosis. He said News International has lied about how they sourced the story.

"I find it sad that even now in 2012, members of the News International staff are coming to this inquiry and maintaining this fiction that a story that could only have been achieved or obtained through medical information - or through me or my wife leaking it which we never did of course - was obtained in another way. And I think we cannot learn the lessons about what has happened with the media unless there is some honesty," he said.

Rebekah Brooks, the then editor of the Sun, told the inquiry that Brown had not objected to the story being published, which Brown denied.

"There was no question of us giving permission for this - there was no question of implicit or explicit permission. And I ask you - if any mother or any father was presented with a choice as to whether a four-month-old son's medical condition, your child's medical condition, should be broadcast on the front page of a tabloid newspaper, and you had a choice in this matter, I don't think there's any parent in the land who would have made the choice that we are told we made to give explicit permission for that to happen. So there was no question ever of explicit permission."

Former prime minister John Major will also testify this week, along with Labour leader Ed Miliband, deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman and Nick Clegg, the head of the Liberal Democrat junior party in the government coalition.