Now Sky News in the dock for email hacking

London: Sky News, a part of Rupert Murdoch`s media empire in Britain, today admitted that it illegally hacked e-mails twice for information, further tarnishing the image of the press baron. The admission is an indication that unethical news gathering practices were not confined to the now closed News of the World, but were more widespread in Murdoch`s media holdings in Britain.

News of the World has since been closed in the wake of the phone-hacking controversy, which sparked off a raft of inquiries against Murdoch`s media companies and caused commercial setback to BSkyB, when he was forced to withdraw his takeover bid. Sky News, which is a subsidiary of BSkyB, said hacked emails belonging to one John Darwin, who was in the news for faking his own death in a canoe for 500,000 pounds in insurance gains, and his wife Anne.

Due to recent allegations, BSkyB is under investigation by regulator Ofcom to determine whether the broadcaster is `fit and proper` to continue to hold a broadcasting licence. James Murdoch this week resigned as chairman of BSkyB. In a statement, Sky News claimed that illegally accessing emails was in the public interest and amounted to "responsible journalism".

"Sky News is committed to the highest editorial standards. Like other news organisations, we are acutely aware of the tensions that can arise between the law and responsible investigative journalism. We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest. We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently. They require finely balanced judgement based on individual circumstances and must always be subjected to the proper editorial controls," the statement from Sky News added.

Sky News said that after accessing emails of John Darwin and Anne, it supplied material to Cleveland police which was "pivotal" to the court case. "Cleveland Police has conducted an initial review into these matters and can confirm that enquiries are ongoing into how the emails were obtained," a Cleveland Police spokeswoman said.

Labour MP Tom Watson, who has been in the forefront of attacks against Murdoch, said "There are many questions that need answering. The chair of BSkyB needs to say something on this and reassure viewers this has not been going on more widely. There are cases where the public is best served with journalists breaking the law. But it has to be done in extremes and I am not sure whether it was in these two cases. It is too early to know".