The civil war between Rupert Murdoch's employees at the Sun newspaper and his media empire reached new heights on Thursday, as the National Union of Journalists called on embattled journalists to organize against News International.
The British trade union invited the staff of the newspaper to join its ranks and abandon their in-house union after the arrest of nine Sun journalists in connection with corrupt payments to civil servants.
It is the latest development in the war between News International and its journalists, who are outraged by the company's willingness to disclose their confidential sources and hand reporters over to the police.
NUJ secretary Michelle Stanistreet issued the invitation on former News of the World reporter Neville Thurlbeck's blog on Thursday. Thurlbeck, a central figure in News Corp.'s long-running scandal, was fired on charges of phone hacking, but has maintained his innocence and spoken out against the company.
In a post titled "NUJ to Place its Tanks on the Lawns of News Int," Stanistreet blasted News International for using the "careers and livelihoods" of journalists who have dedicated decades to the company as what she called "collateral damage." She alleged that the News International Staff Association could not provide journalists with "independent representation and genuine protection" because it is funded by Murdoch himself.
"Murdoch gave it life, he sustains it with his own money -- the links are seamless," Stanistreet wrote. "If you want protection that’s independent, that puts journalists and journalism first -– you need to join the NUJ now."
She also confirmed reports that the union is preparing to launch a legal challenge to News International's disclosure of confidential sources to police. "Two eminent QCs – Geoffrey Robertson and John Hendy – are working with me on a range of legal measures to challenge the actions of the MSC and to provide help and support to members at News International before more members are thrown to the wolves," she announced.
In a follow-up post, Thurlbeck championed the NUJ's campaign, and lit into Murdoch and News International. He compared the company's internal Management and Standards Committee, which has been providing information to the police, to a "hired assassin" working to mitigate the damage for Murdoch.
He also attributed a Reuters article, which quoted an anonymous source describing the bribery charges as "serious suspected criminality over a sustained period," to the committee. He called the quote "the slyest of stabs" and "an 'Et tu, Brute?' moment even more treacherous than their now infamous, 'draining the swamp' quote."