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LONDON — Rupert Murdoch is facing a new crisis at News International after five senior reporters at his flagship daily newspaper The Sun were arrested in the early hours of Saturday.
The News Corp. chairman and CEO is understood to be flying to London. While one source said the trip was previously planned, Murdoch is expected to spend time with the company’s journalists in the U.K. and reassure staff amid concern that the arrests may force the newspaper to be shut down. Last year, the media conglomerate shuttered the News of the World amid the phone-hacking scandal. A police officer, a ministry of defense official and a member of the military were also arrested in Saturday’s swoop.
Neither Murdoch, son James Murdoch, who is chairman of the News International publishing business, nor the newspaper’s editor were informed that the arrests would take place.
The arrests come after four other senior reporters were arrested two weeks ago in a widening probe into bribery payments to the police and other public officials related to the phone hacking. News International’s London headquarters has been raided by police.
The journalists arrested Saturday were thought to be deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker and reporter John Sturgess, according to a report in The Guardian.
The Sun editor Dominic Mohan said he was “as shocked as anyone” at the arrests but insisted he was “determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times.” He added: “I have a brilliant staff, and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is putting out Monday’s newspaper.”
In its pages, the paper has yet to allude to the fact it is part of a major corruption inquiry.
A statement from News Corp.’s Management Standards Committee — the internal group supplying police with evidence for its inquiries — said the company would remain “committed to ensuring that unacceptable newsgathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated.”
“The MSC has provided the option of immediate legal representation to those arrested,” the statement added. “The MSC will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, private or personal information and legal privilege.”
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