Dominic Mohan appears at Leveson Inquiry

 

Dominic Mohan, the current editor of The Sun, told the Leveson Inquiry today that the paper could be a "powerful force for good" through its campaigns, support for charities and efforts to explain complicated stories in a clear way.

At the first session of the inquiry since Christmas Mr Mohan, a former showbusiness reporter who took over at the helm of Britain's best-selling daily paper in 2009, appealed for there to be a "level playing field" between the press and internet publications.

"I do think it could be a potentially mortal blow to the newspaper industry that's already wounded," he said.

"I think the combination of an over-regulated press with an unregulated internet is a very, very worrying thought."

Mr Mohan was asked about comments he made at an awards ceremony in 2002 in which he thanked "Vodafone's lack of security" for the showbusiness exclusives in rival paper the Daily Mirror.

The inquiry heard this was a reference to the fact that it was easy to hack into mobile phones on the Vodafone network.

But Mr Mohan insisted it was "a joke", saying: "It was a cheap shot at the Mirror because they'd had a particularly good year."

Earlier former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie defended his "bullish" approach to editing the paper as he acknowledged that the publication has now become "more cautious".

He told the inquiry he did not spend much time worrying about journalistic ethics or which stories would sell more copies, leaving it to his readers to decide whether his decisions were right.

Mr MacKenzie, who edited The Sun from 1981 to 1994, also insisted that Rupert Murdoch never put him under commercial pressure and in fact often felt that he went too far.

"I didn't spend too much time pondering the ethics of how a story was gained nor over-worry about whether to publish or not," he said in a witness statement.

"If we believed the story to be true and we felt Sun readers should know the facts, we published it and we left it to them to decide if we had done the right thing.

"They could decide we were correct and carry on purchasing us - in my time in ever-increasing numbers - or could decide we were wrong, in which they could decline to buy us again, ie Hillsborough."

This was a reference to The Sun's sharp circulation decline on Merseyside over its controversial coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool football fans died.

Mr Murdoch was furious when he found out The Sun was to pay £1 million in damages to Elton John after a story falsely claimed the singer had hired rent boys, the inquiry heard.

Mr MacKenzie recalled sending the media mogul a fax about the case then receiving a 40-minute phone call of "non-stop abuse". He told the hearing: "Let's put it this way, he wasn't pleased."

He stood by comments he made in a Leveson Inquiry seminar in October, when he said: "My view was that if it sounded right it was probably right and therefore we should lob it in."

He said he had looked up the definition of the word "lob" in an online dictionary, and found it meant "to throw in a slow arc".

"The point I'm making is that we thought about something, and then put it in," he said.

Mr MacKenzie told the hearing that when he was Sun editor he would meet then-prime minister Baroness Thatcher twice a year, and might see Cabinet ministers between six and ten times a year.

"I was always astonished that a prime minister would want to meet a tabloid journalist with one GCSE, and wondered where the equivalence was in that discussion," he said.

Mr MacKenzie has previously described the Leveson Inquiry as "ludicrous" and suggested it is only being held because of Prime Minister David Cameron's "obsessive a***-kissing" of Rupert Murdoch.

The colourful former editor was behind a number of contentious front-page Sun headlines, including "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" and "Gotcha", about the sinking of the Argentine warship General Belgrano during the Falklands War in May 1982.

He rejected Anne Diamond's evidence to the inquiry in November that Mr Murdoch's editors waged a vendetta against her after she asked the media tycoon how he slept at night knowing his newspapers ruined people's lives.

The former TV-am presenter spoke of her distress when The Sun published a front-page picture of her and her husband carrying the coffin of their baby son Sebastian, a victim of cot death, at his funeral in 1991.

But Mr MacKenzie told the inquiry: "I have had the advantage as distinct from Ms Diamond of working with Rupert Murdoch for 13 years closely.

"And I have never heard him say 'Go after anybody' under any circumstances, whether it is the prime minister, a failing breakfast show host, or anybody. He's never said it.

"Why she should believe that her career has suffered because of one conversation is beyond me."

Mr MacKenzie said the culture at The Sun had changed under its recent editors, and admitted he himself became "less bullish" towards the end of his time in charge.

"The editors are more cautious and were probably in a changing world right to be cautious," he said.

The session was held up shortly into Mr MacKenzie's evidence when a man shouted across the courtroom: "Ask him about Michael Stone."

Lord Justice Leveson told the man to stop or he would be asked to leave. The man replied: "Am I in contempt?" before walking out of the hearing.

The heckler identified himself as Alexander Baron, who runs a website protesting the innocence of Stone, who is serving three life sentences after being convicted of bludgeoning mother and daughter Lin and Megan Russell to death with a hammer and attempting to murder Megan's sister Josie in Chillenden, Kent, in July 1996.

Meanwhile, Gordon Smart, The Sun's showbiz editor, said he and his team were "respectful" of people's right to privacy when deciding whether to run a story.

"It's a balancing act we have to weigh up on a daily basis," he told the hearing.

"I would like to think most of the time we get it right. Occasionally we get it wrong."

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry last July in response to claims that the News of the World commissioned a private detective to hack murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone after she disappeared in 2002.

The first part of the inquiry, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, is looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the press in general and is due to produce a report by September.

The second part, examining the extent of unlawful activities by journalists, will not begin until detectives have completed their investigation into alleged phone hacking and corrupt payments to police, and any prosecutions have been concluded.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape