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Latest on British Phone Hacking Scandal; Europe's Economic Woes
Aired May 15, 2012 - 17:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. In my brief tonight, dueling dramas across Europe, from Hackergate in the U.K. to an economic crisis point in the Eurozone. And that's seen literally underscored by a bolt of lightning which actually hit the plane that was carrying France's new president to urgent talks in Germany.
Shortly after Francois Hollande was sworn in as president today, he took off to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He eventually did make it to Berlin, where the two leaders have been meeting and talking.
They are, of course, sharply divided over how to fix the Eurozone. At the heart of it, the deadlock in Greece, where politicians there again today unable to form a new government and thus forcing new elections next month.
In a moment, I will ask the last Greek monarch, King Constantine, whether the country will go back to the drachma. But our lead story tonight, in London, prosecutors filed the first criminal charges in the Murdoch hacking scandal.
Today, Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the now-defunct Rupert Murdoch tabloid the "News of the World," was charged with perverting the course of justice, plotting to conceal documents, computers and other evidence from the police who were investigating the scandal.
Brooks' husband also faces a single charge. And outside the London police station afterwards, the couple faced the cameras.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REBEKAH BROOKS, FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NEWS INTERNATIONAL: I understand a need and know that there needs to be a proper and thorough investigation and I am baffled by the decision to charge me today.
However, more importantly, I cannot express my anger enough that those closest to me have been dragged into this unfairly. One day the details of this case will emerge and people we see today as nothing more than an expensive sideshow, a waste of public money as a result of an injust and weak decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: My guest tonight has testified before the Leveson commission, the judicial hearing into the press power relationship in Britain. Alastair Campbell was director of communications for the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, and joins me now from London.
Alistair, thank you for being with me.
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR TONY BLAIR: Pleasure, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: You were at the Leveson commission. You testified. Tell me about the relationship, the cozy, some would say, relationship between the press and power, Murdoch and the government.
CAMPBELL: Well, the first thing to say, this is not just about Rupert Murdoch. Britain, as you know, from having lived here, has got a very diverse and very aggressive media, and the print media is still pretty powerful within the media landscape. We have a lot of newspapers in a geographically fairly small country.
There -- a lot of them sell a lot of copies and I think any political leader has to take account of the role that they play in political debate. Now, as you say, I was at the Leveson inquiry yesterday, and I was there a few months ago, giving evidence for the first time. And I made the point that there's a nexus here between the print and the broadcast media.
The print is still very important in the setting of an agenda. I don't know how power in the way that politicians have power, but I think any politician in Britain and in most of the advanced democracies, who doesn't at least understand the role that the media can play in the setting of an agenda and the terms of a debate, is just part of the landscape.
Now what I hope will come out of this inquiry is a changing of that relationship. I mean, I've been arguing for some years that it's got itself into a very, very bad place. And I hope it can lead to change.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, that's your position and indeed you did write in an op-ed in the "Financial Times" last year, in which you talked about a chance to escape Murdoch's embrace. I want to read you some of how Rebekah Brooks herself summed up on the -- at the judicial inquiry her contacts with the current prime minister, David Cameron.
Basically she was saying -- and this I'm quoting "The New York Times" now, that they talked by telephone, text message, email. They met at lunches and dinners. They socialized at cocktail parties, birthday parties, summer outings, Christmas celebrations, and in one heady instance, on a yacht in Greece.
Is that appropriate? I'm not talking about legal or illegal. I'm talking about is that an appropriate relationship between a newspaper editor and a prime minister?
CAMPBELL: I think David Cameron is on the record as saying that he got too close. And he says that all politicians got at times too close. I mean, I must say that Tony Blair never had a mobile phone when he was prime minister, so the texting certainly didn't go on.
He would -- I think I said at the inquiry yesterday that in a 3-year period from 2002-2005, Tony Blair spoke to Rupert Murdoch on the phone six times in total, meetings maybe once, twice, max three times a year, probably, when Rupert Murdoch might be coming through town, if there was a board meeting here, whatever.
But I certainly think that it got too close and I was interested -- I said in the inquiry yesterday that I remember once at one of our meetings with George Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War, George Bush asking myself and Tony Blair what Rupert Murdoch was like, because he'd never met him. And we said, well, you've never met Rupert Murdoch? He said no.
And I thought, wow, that was pretty good. So I think you do have a -- you do -- I'm not saying that you don't have important media figures in the American landscape. But I think they're maybe just not such a part of the political debate as they've been here. What I've been arguing is, in a sense, the political class has got to do a better job of standing up for itself.
I think, to be honest, I mean, because she's not terribly well, what is not meant to speak badly of Margaret Thatcher, but I think a lot of this does go back to the Thatcher era, when the papers were kind of -- it's almost like they were part of her team.
AMANPOUR: Well --
CAMPBELL: And you know -- sorry.
AMANPOUR: Well, just on that note, it was thought at that time, certainly Rupert Murdoch was described as courting Margaret Thatcher, that she -- it was described as basically, you know, relaxing some of the laws that enabled him to be able to expand his media empire. Would you say that that was an accurate description?
CAMPBELL: Well, I think one of the witnesses who was going before the inquiry this week is Harold Evans, who you'll know very well and was editor of "The Times" and the "Sunday Times" and he's on record as saying that, in his view, something very, very bad did go on in relation to that. So maybe some light will be cast upon on that.
And certainly I don't think there's any doubt that the Thatcher government saw Rupert Murdoch as a very substantial ally in all sorts of ways. And the truth is, you know, when we were in opposition, we'd been out of power for a long time, the Labor Party that I worked for had really bad relations with the Murdoch press because of all sorts of historical reasons.
And we did, when Tony took over, we did decide we were going to try a different approach, try to get them in a more reasonable position. Now, we actually managed them to persuade them to endorse the election. And they did that for the three elections that Tony Blair fought and won.
AMANPOUR: Well, would you say that helped you win?
CAMPBELL: I think they backed up because they knew we were going to win. We didn't win because they backed us. But it doesn't harm you. And I think, again, we've got to be realistic about this, particularly, as I say, when you're in a country with a media like ours. And we all believe they're free media. I don't like our media very much, but we all believe in a free media.
And it is there and in the 24 media age or the 24 news, which you know more about than anybody, the Internet and so forth, then the idea that a political party or a political leader doesn't have to take some consideration of how he or she is coming over in the media is absurd. You do have to do that. Now what I've -- one of the reasons we ended up -- sorry.
AMANPOUR: Sorry, I'll let you continue soon. I want to play these two pieces of testimony, one by Rupert Murdoch and one by yourself at the Leveson inquiry, and then I want to ask you about them. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUPERT MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, NEWS CORPORATION: I, in 10 years of his power (ph), never asked Mr. Blair for anything, nor indeed did I receive any favors. And if you want to check that, I think you should call him.
CAMPBELL: I never was witness to and don't believe that anything -- there was ever a discussion that said, now, Tony, if you do this and you do this and you do this, my papers will back you. It just never happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So there you are, from the horse's mouth, you saying it didn't happen, Murdoch saying it didn't happen. But, again, I want to ask you what is appropriate.
The British prime minister who you served, Tony Blair, was godfather to Mr. Murdoch's daughter. He also flew around the world a few times, certainly before the first election, to go to meet him.
This is documented. Is that appropriate, and can the -- somebody who's a business man like Murdoch believe that perhaps actually he could have influence if there was going to be that kind of, certainly, cozy personal relationship, godfather. That's quite cozy.
CAMPBELL: I agree with that. And just a point of fact on that, that happened after Tony ceased being prime minister. I don't think there's any question that Tony would, had he still be prime minister, would not have done that. But I accept it shows a closeness.
I think, to be absolutely fair, Tony will himself be going to the Leveson inquiry at some stage in the next few weeks. And I think he would probably say that he probably is more friendly with Rupert Murdoch since he was prime minister than when he was prime minister. And on the point about going to Australia it was to make a speech to Murdoch's executives, that's when we were in opposition.
I was absolutely of the view that it was the right thing to do, because it was an important platform. It was an opportunity for us to set out our case, not just to Murdoch and his executives, but in so doing, because it was such a controversial thing to do, to get a lot of attention for what we were saying in the basic new labor case that we were putting (ph).
So I ask you, would -- and I did yesterday. I defended the way that Tony Blair and that relationship with Rupert Murdoch developed. Now the -- it's obvious why there's so much focus on Murdoch. One, he's the biggest media player in the British landscape and in plenty of other parts of the world, too, and secondly, because of the phone hacking scandal that led to this inquiry in the first place.
But you have to understand, you know, there are lots of media owners. And Tony Blair's on record as saying, you know, if you didn't have to spend any time with him, you probably wouldn't.
They're pretty ruthless. They're about themselves. I quote yesterday a quote from Paul Keating that's in my diaries from back at that meeting in Australia where Paul Keating said, "The thing you've got to understand about Rupert is that Rupert's interests are Rupert, one; Rupert, two; Rupert, three; the kids; the wife and the kids and then everything else after that."
And people know that's what they're dealing with. It doesn't mean you know, if you're the politician, you know -- Tony Blair once said to me, look -- because I used to advocate the idea that we should actually do something about what the press culture was becoming. I thought it was bad, that it was bad for the country, bad for our democracy. His view was that most people thought we were getting a pretty good ride.
And what's more, there were more important things to deal with. But he also said, if you've got the whole of the press in kill mode, out to kill you as a political leader, that's not a very sensible position to be in. And that's pragmatic politics.
AMANPOUR: Well, I believe it was yesterday on the stand you called elements of the media, "frankly putrid," that's colorful Alastair Campbell language. And I remember being at Tony Blair's last speech, in which he talked about feral beasts, he called us "feral beasts." I'm sure you had a hand in writing that.
CAMPBELL: I don't think you were in that mix, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Well, whatever. The relationship was very bad. What, in terms of politicians and the press, what is going to come out of the Leveson inquiry, do you think? What kind of regulation or is there a hope of self-regulation? Is there a necessity for that? Do you think it'll ever happen?
CAMPBELL: I don't know, but I think it's -- obviously, I mean, this inquiry is getting huge coverage of Britain. And it's amazing just walking around London, the people who stop and talk to you and say they're following it on the website and so forth. And so I think people realize this is quite an important moment in relation to the development of what our press is.
And of course, as I said yesterday, the definition of a journalist is changing. You know, smartphones and people can sort of take a picture of you walking down the street, they can put it on Twitter. If they see Piers Morgan out and about doing something that they think he shouldn't be, they can say straightaway, I've just seen Piers Morgan doing such-and-such.
I'm not saying he were doing anything inappropriate by the way. But whenever he fell off his scooter or whatever it was, it went straight onto Twitter, straight onto YouTube. And so I just think that we're in a different media age. And the regulation -- the point I made yesterday is that it's very difficult to regulate the press in the era of Internet.
But I think that we've reached this scandal, this situation because of scandal and if there isn't some form of proper regulation, then I think the British public will say, well, what the hell's going on? And self- regulation in this country has totally failed.
AMANPOUR: Alastair Campbell, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
CAMPBELL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
And the potential fall of a media empire is one thing. But what's it like to lose a kingdom, a real kingdom, as Greece ponders the unthinkable, exiting the Eurozone, the man who used to occupy the throne can only watch with bated breath like the rest of us. A royal audience when we return.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, and now to our other big story. In Greece today, leading politicians were unable to form a new government. And this means that the country must hold an election in June. The problem facing Greece is that voters want to have their cake and eat it, too. That means stay in the Eurozone, but avoid austerity.
But now a Greek exit is considered a very real possibility. If Greece returns to the drachma, it could bring even greater pain perhaps than austerity itself. People's savings will lose value, literally overnight. There could be a run on banks if contagion spreads to Spain, Italy, Portugal.
And as Greece prepares for new elections, I spoke about the country's prospects with a concerned and loyal Greek citizen, Constantine II, the last king of Greece before the monarchy was abolished in the early 1970s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Your Majesty, thank you very much for joining us from London.
KING CONSTANTINE II OF GREECE: Pleasure.
AMANPOUR: You have just come back from Greece. What is the feeling there?
CONSTANTINE: Well, I went down to see with my wife the lighting of the Olympic flame for the London Olympics. The feeling is, at that time, of considerable anger and apprehension as to what will happen next.
And the president of the republic has been trying very hard to find common ground for all the political parties so we can proceed from there.
AMANPOUR: There's a lot of questions about what do the Greeks want. Your son has written a very interesting piece for a publication in which he says -- and I wonder if you agree -- that, "Greeks do not want to get out of the euro or out of the Eurozone."
Is that what you think?
CONSTANTINE: I think that's probably correct. I think it's about 80 percent of the people would like to stay with the euro.
AMANPOUR: Your Majesty, should the Greek people be prepared to make sacrifices in order to stay in the Eurozone? As you mentioned, 80 percent say they want to do that. But, frankly, 60 percent say they don't want to submit to these austerity measures. Do you believe that sacrifice is still necessary and must happen?
CONSTANTINE: Unfortunately, the way things are going, yes, I would think that that is probably the case. And it's really causing a lot of (inaudible). People can't pay their -- they don't get their pensions. They can't look after their young people, who are unemployed.
It's nearly 50 percent of -- nearly 1 million Greeks are out of work. It's a really serious problem. We need stability, a strong government, pro-European, that will find a solution to this problem.
And in Europe, the government should understand that there's no point in forcing people to accept these austerities. Otherwise, you won't get anywhere. So back off, take a deep breath and start again.
AMANPOUR: You say that, sir, but as you know, the chancellor of Germany has said we're not backing off. It's either go to reforms or you won't get any more bailout money, and that may, in turn, lead to a hasty exit from the euro.
CONSTANTINE: Well, I certainly wouldn't want to second guess the chancellor of Germany, who has got her own difficulties in elections. But the trouble really is that if we all go down this road of austerity, it won't be much good for her and her country. It will be a disaster.
AMANPOUR: But you say disaster. What do you think would happen to Greece if it did get out of the euro?
CONSTANTINE: Well, if you can't pay the bills, you can't pay for anything in the country, it will come to a standstill, virtually bankruptcy. It will be a real nightmare.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you to describe for me what it is that the Greek people feel so angry about when it comes to Germany. What happened, you know, in World War II that makes them dress up Angela Merkel today in Nazi uniform, for instance? Where is the anger from?
CONSTANTINE: Well, you have to remember that Greece did suffer enormously under the Nazis. A lot of people were executed under the Nazis, and especially there was huge hunger.
People were starving and died from that. The Jewish population in the north of Greece was exterminated. And it left a lot of scars. But that now we have to get on with life and try and remember the important things that are in the minds of the people, and that is that they need posterity to be taken care of.
And we need growth. That is the most important thing. Without growth, there won't be any future for Greece. And this is vital in a democracy. Otherwise, we go to extremes.
AMANPOUR: Well, you see extremes popping up right now. There are extremes -- I mean, one of these so-called neo-Nazis has taken, for the first time, a parliamentary seat. How much does that worry you?
CONSTANTINE: It worries me indeed, because I think that that is simply a reaction. It's quite possible that you will see that this will change in the next general election. But I think people got quite a surprise.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you a final question, because your sister is queen of Spain. The king of Spain there is a constitutional monarch as well, but he brought democracy back to that country after dictatorship. And there is a huge financial economic problem there, too.
In fact, people are very worried that the Greek, let's say, virus is going to be contagious and that Spain is going to catch this disease. Do you worry about that? Do you talk to your brother-in-law, the king of Spain?
CONSTANTINE: No, I think it's best to not mix up in other people's business. But I know that from what I read, that both Italy and Spain and Portugal and all those countries must have -- are concerned about whether it happens or not. I don't know.
But let us be objective. What is needed is people must stop attacking each other, must stop being belligerent, stop saying the other one is at fault, try and find the middle road. We have to get the country back on its feet, and we can do it.
I'm actually quite optimistic that we can get the country back working again. And all it needs is calmness and concentration and keeping your sense of humor, if it's possible.
AMANPOUR: King Constantine, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
CONSTANTINE: Looking forward to seeing you again. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And as we've been saying, Europe has been turned upside down and the loose coins are falling out of its pockets. But across the world in Afghanistan, women could be paying an even higher price. A story and a face that you won't soon forget when we come back.
AMANPOUR: And finally, the economic crisis in Europe and here in the United States is being felt as far away as Afghanistan, where NATO members are racing for the exit, and as they go, the money and resources needed to protect the Afghan people might go with them.
Imagine a world where women are tortured for saying no. Sara Sidner has the story of the ones whom NATO leaves behind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a small room far from home, 18-year-old Mumtaz is trying to recover from the worst chapter in her life, the day her face was soaked in acid.
MUMTAZ, ACID VICTIM (through translator): I feel so bad. That is why I don't look in the mirror any more.
SIDNER (voice-over): A scorned young man decided if he couldn't marry her, he'd make sure no one else wanted to. One night, several armed men entered their home to teach the family a lesson.
MUMTAZ (through translator): There were three people. Two of them were holding a weapon, saying, "Do not move," and the third person was pouring acid.
SIDNER (voice-over): She says the person pouring the acid was the man who had asked to marry her. A few of the men involved have been arrested, but not the one who left her scarred for life. Mumtaz is now hiding in a safe house.
MUMTAZ (through translator): The children have helped a lot. If they were not here, I would have been dead by now.
SIDNER: Unfortunately, Mumtaz's story isn't all that unusual here. She lives among 16 girls and women now in this house, and almost every single one of them has scars from domestic abuse.
SIDNER (voice-over): Across the hall from Mumtaz, Sahar Gul sits alone in her room, illegally married off at 13 years old, she says she was treated like an animal by her husband and his family. She says she was tortured because she was unable to conceive a child right away, among other things, and she refused to submit to their demands that she work as a prostitute to contribute to the household income.
SAHAR GUL, TORTURE VICTIM (through translator): They used to beat me and choke me with wire. They poured boiling water on my face. They pulled out my fingernails.
SIDNER (voice-over): And even after three family members were jailed and have now been convicted, Gul is having great difficulties getting a divorce from her husband, a scenario that infuriates Fawzia Kofi, a member of the Afghan Parliament.
FAWZIA KOFI, MEMBER OF AFGHAN PARLIAMENT: The judges believe that if a woman asks for divorce instead of her being a victim, she is like a criminal. How can you break the family values and ask for divorce? So even the courts don't favor a woman who asks for divorce.
SIDNER (voice-over): Still, since the U.S.-led war began, Human Rights Watch says the status of women in Afghanistan has improved some. For example, 2 million more girls are in school. Infant mortality rates have dropped and life expectancy has risen. But a 2008 survey by Global Rights showed 87 percent of Afghan women reported suffering from domestic abuse.
Recognizing the problem, President Karzai enacted a law that's supposed to help eliminate violence against women. Women's rights advocates say the law is good, but its enforcement is feeble.
Rights advocates fear that when the international troops leave this country, so will Afghan women's rights. Usually, the women who are suffering remain faceless to the outside world. But Mumtaz is hoping you don't forget her face -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Indeed, we dare not forget. And that's it for tonight's program. Thank you. Goodbye from New York.