The Sun newspaper turned to Downing Street for support yesterday as it sought to generate a backlash to what it described as a "witch hunt" police investigation into the alleged bribery of public officials by its journalists.
The newspaper's associate editor Trevor Kavanagh was given a platform by editor Dominic Mohan to claim News International journalists were "being treated like members of an organised crime gang".
Yesterday morning, a Sun journalist invited Downing Street to agree that the police had deployed a disproportionate number of officers to investigate allegations of criminality at NI. Downing Street responded: "It is for the police to decide how they deploy police officers."
Mr Kavanagh then went on a tour of broadcast appearances, where he accused the News Corporation Management & Standards Committee (MSC) of "actually boasting" that its work was "putting people in police cells". Sky video of Mr Kavanagh's attack was placed on The Sun's website and his outburst was vigorously re-tweeted by the paper's official Twitter account. This was open rebellion.
Mr Murdoch is expected to face the mutinous Sun staff when he arrives in London this week. The level of anger is great because the arrested journalists include some of the most respected figures in the newsroom. The picture editor John Edwards, one of those raided on Saturday morning, is the son of the famous Sun photographer Arthur Edwards; deputy editor Geoff Webster, and reporters John Kay and Nick Parker have also been targeted.
Mr Kavanagh claimed it was common for journalists to pay for information and that Sun reporters were being treated like "suspected terrorists" for having done something that "has been standard procedure as long as newspapers have existed".
In fact, the cash culture at NI tabloids has long been different from that on most other titles. In the period under investigation, many Sun journalists became used to going to the ground floor "cashiers" to obtain wads of cash to entertain or pay contacts.
Mr Kavanagh also suggested that the Met investigation into journalistic malpractice was being "driven by politicians". The reality is that it is being propelled by detectives angry at the damage the phone-hacking scandal and allegations of corrupt officers has done to the Met.