The New York Post is seeking to keep its top editor from having to answer questions in a bias lawsuit about his discussions with media mogul Rupert Murdoch over a published cartoon that appeared to liken President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee.
Calling the February 2009 cartoon “quintessential political speech entitled to the strongest protections of the First Amendment,” the newspaper in a court filing late Friday night also said the discussions were irrelevant to the lawsuit brought by Sandra Guzman, a former associate editor.
In November 2009, Guzman, who is black and Puerto Rican, sued the Post, its editor Col Allan and its parent News Corp for alleged discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, gender and national origin, saying she had been fired in retaliation for complaints over inappropriate conduct.
She also claimed to have objected to the cartoon, which referred to the $787 billion federal economic stimulus and depicted a policeman shooting a crazed chimpanzee, a reference to an actual incident in Connecticut.
Many people thought the animal was meant to depict Obama, and Murdoch later apologized to readers.
Sky News, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire, admitted on Thursday it had hacked into emails on two occasions but said the actions had been editorially justified and were in the public interest.
Murdoch’s son James resigned as chairman of BSkyB on Tuesday to prevent a phone-hacking scandal at News Corp’s News of the World tabloid newspaper from harming BSkyB, a British pay-tv broadcaster of which News Corp owns 39 percent.
Sky News, BSkyB’S news channel, said that on one occasion it authorized a journalist to access the emails of people suspected of criminal activity in the so-called “canoe man” case of a man who faked his own death by paddling out to sea.
“We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest,” the head of Sky News, John Ryley, said in a statement.
Sky did not say what the second hacking episode was, but media reports said the said journalist accessed the email accounts of a suspected pedophile and his wife in an investigation that did not lead to any material being published or broadcast.
READ MORE: Sky News channel admits to email hacking
Pressure is building in Britain and Australia for fresh probes into Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, already under siege over phone-hacking claims, after allegations that it ran a secret unit that promoted pirating of pay-TV rivals.
The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday alleged that News Corp had used a special unit, Operational Security, set up in the mid-1990s, to sabotage its competitors, reinforcing claims in a BBC Panorama documentary aired earlier this week.
“These are serious allegations, and any allegations of criminal activity should be referred to the AFP (Australian Federal police) for investigation,” a spokeswoman for Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told Reuters.
Source: Media abuse group to call on Rupert Murdoch
The judicial inquiry into alleged media abuses is preparing to summon British newspaper owners, including Rupert Murdoch, to give public testimony in late April or early May, according to sources close to the inquiry.
One of the sources said that some of the proprietors to be called to testify have been notified of the intentions of the judge leading the inquiry, but did not know if Murdoch had yet been notified.
Another source said Brian Leveson had publicly indicated there would be opportunities during his inquiry when he would want to discuss its emerging findings with key figures.
News Corp said on Wednesday that James Murdoch, the younger son of chairman Rupert, would relinquish his position as executive chairman of its News International unit.
The younger Murdoch will remain as deputy chief operating officer of the wider business and will focus on its international TV business.
Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News International, will continue in his post and report to News Corp President Chase Carey.
DEVELOPING: James Murdoch gives up key role at News Int’l
U.S. authorities are stepping up investigations, including an FBI criminal inquiry, into possible violations by employees of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire of a U.S. law banning corrupt payments to foreign officials such as police, law enforcement and corporate sources said.
The U.S. official said that if any law enforcement action was pursued by U.S. authorities against Murdoch employees, it would most likely relate to FCPA.
If it is found to have violated the FCPA, Murdoch’s News Corp, which has its headquarters in New York, could be fined up to $2 million and barred from U.S. government contracts, and individuals who participated in the bribery could face fines of up to $100,000 and a jail sentence of five years.