News International will launch the Sun on Sunday “very soon” and the suspensions of arrested Sun journalists have been lifted, Rupert Murdoch announced today.
But the chairman of News Corporation also in a message to staff said that the company’s Management and Standards Committee would continue to work with police and “turn over every piece of evidence we find”.
He effectively endorsed the MSC’s decision to disclose confidential Sun sources to police, saying: “We will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, which I know are essential for all of you to do your jobs. But we cannot protect people who have paid public officials.”
Referring to the 10 Sun journalists arrested on suspicion of bribing public officials, he said: “We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested -- all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work. News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.”
But a senior Sun source who has spoken to several of those arrested said they were unsure whether they wanted to come back to work. “The invitation is being treated with some dubiety. They feel bruised,” the source said.
The arrested journalists have been bailed to return to police stations in April or May but they are not under any bail conditions which would prevent them from returning to work.
Mr Murdoch said he would be staying in London for “several weeks” to support his staff.
“I am even more determined to see The Sun continue to fight for its readers and its beliefs and am confident we will get through this together and emerge stronger. I am staying with you all, in London, for the next several weeks to give you my unwavering support.”
He described the events of last three weeks, which have seen nine Sun journalists arrested in dawn raids, as “a source of great pain for me, as I know it is for each of you”.
On the MSC’s investigation, he said: “Our independently chaired Management & Standards Committee, which operates outside of News International, has been instructed to cooperate with the police. We will turn over every piece of evidence we find -- not just because we are obligated to but because it is the right thing to do.”
On the plans for a new Sunday tabloid, Mr Murdoch said: “We will build on The Sun’s proud heritage by launching The Sun on Sunday very soon. Our duty is to expand one of the world’s most widely read newspapers and reach even more people than ever before. Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics.”