News of the World scandal: European press review

News that Britain's biggest tabloid, the News of the World, is to close suddenly after a phone hacking scandal has made headlines across Europe, generating revulsion at the paper's methods and questions about the future of its owner, Rupert Murdoch.

The NOTW was accused of hacking into phones of crime victims, celebrities and politicians, with police identifying 4,000 possible targets.

"The World closes ranks against the News", is how, a popular liberal online newspaper in Russia, put the story.

Germany's biggest tabloid, Bild, gave a fairly straight account of the demise of "one of the UK's most aggressive tabloids".

While the German paper is famous for its photos of topless women and its pursuit of candid celebrity photographs, German media have to report under stringent privacy laws.

It was left to one of the German broadsheets, Die Welt, to comment on the ethics of the scandal.

Under the headline "When journalists exploit unimaginable suffering", it said the NOTW had "crossed moral and legal boundaries".

'Historic first'

France's Nouvel Observateur magazine ran an analysis piece by Mathieu Geniole titled "A legendary newspaper buried in secret".

"A whole institution is vanishing... a thick Sunday tabloid that soiled the hands both literally and figuratively," he wrote.

So great was the shock, he said, that its online edition gave no indication it was closing, and continued to offer four-week subscriptions on Thursday.

He noted the NOTW had first made headlines in France in the 1990s with its "mad quest to identify England's paedophiles street by street".

The lingering image of the NOTW, he argued, was that of a tabloid "which stops at nothing to sell copy at the risk of ruining itself and becoming the first paper in the world to fold for a reason other than voluntary liquidation".

Political consequences

Writing with disgust in Belgium's Le Soir, media analyst Jean-Paul Marthoz referred to NOTW reporters as "journalists" only in quotation marks.

"Papers like Le Parisien in France or Newsday in New York have shown you can be both 'wider public' and respectable," he said.

"But papers like The New York Post and the News of the World belong to another world where the editors, the 'reporters' and also the readers jointly engage in transgressing the basic principles of human dignity and respect for privacy, and spreading rumours and stereotypes."

"But it is true," he added, "that British politicians - Tony Blair yesterday, David Cameron today - fawn on 'popular' press baron Rupert Murdoch and have not dared shun a man who uses his newspapers astutely to advance his political and financial interests."

Spanish liberal newspaper La Razon chose to lead on Mr Murdoch, suggesting the media magnate's political influence had been weakened.

"When all is said and done, the Sunday paper has always held the keys to Downing Street - the candidate backed by its cover was the candidate who moved into Number 10," it said.

Therefore, according to the Spanish newspaper: "[The News of the World's] closure is a turning point in the history of British journalism, and in politics."

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