Rupert Murdoch's Twitter slap-down has big implications - and not just for News Corp editors

The Middle East is already one of the most difficult territories to cover. This well-publicised intervention won't make it any easier

Share
Related Topics

Rupert Murdoch’s public slap down of the new acting Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens over the publication of Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu raises a number of important issues.

One is that all of the editors in Murdoch’s News Corp media empire have been made aware of the danger that when they next find themselves mired in a controversy and fighting to protect their editorial reputation the boss might use his favourite social media network to cut them down at the knees.

It seems inevitable that those editors will be more likely than in the past to try to second guess the views of a man who assured the Leveson Inquiry that he does not interfere in the editorial content of his papers.

As Ivens sought to justify the drawing, published in the first edition of the Sunday Times since he was made acting editor last week, Murdoch took to Twitter to offer his apology for the “grotesque, offensive cartoon” showing Netanyahu apparently building a wall and using Palestinian blood for mortar.

The comments raise questions about the future of Scarfe at the Sunday Times, a title that has published his drawings for almost half a century. Ironically, some more jealous members of Britain’s cartoon artist community sometimes complain of Scarfe’s apparently cushy lifestyle in Chelsea, married to the cake-baking actress Jane Asher. Well, no one could say his latest piece isn’t controversial. He may well have enjoyed Murdoch’s critique of his work. 

This Twitter intervention will have been noted by those powerful friends who feel they have the ear of the world’s most famous media mogul. If Rupert can be persuaded to publicly embarrass the Sunday Times then perhaps he can be induced to denigrate other News Corp content that angers those in his circle, from Republican politicians to climate change sceptics?

The episode also gives an indication of the power of the Israel lobby in challenging critical media coverage of its politicians. The Independent experienced something similar when cartoonist Dave Brown depicted then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a child killer in his adaptation of Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” in 2003. Campaigners generated a flood of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission, which rejected the idea that the cartoon was anti-Semitic.

The Middle East is probably the most difficult territory for any global news organisation to cover. My attention was recently drawn to Al Monitor, an ambitious website that pulls together the commentary of distinguished writers from across the region, with articles offered in Hebrew, Arabic and Turkish, as well as English, and covering social as well as political developments.

But the area remains a media minefield. It’s interesting to note the approach of the Daily Mail, which despite the enormous scope of its website and the strengths of its editorial department, essentially steers clear of the subject.

Some might call that an abdication of journalistic responsibility while others would recognise the business sense of avoiding a live hand grenade of a topic which brings no obvious commercial benefit to the publisher. Which is why the paper and its website have ignored this Netanyahu story, uncomfortable as it is for one of its greatest media rivals.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders