Last week, Nick Parker of The Sun exposed the shoddy security standards at Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheik International Airport, from which Metrojet Flight 9268 departed on October 31 before mysteriously crashing on the Sinai Peninsula. The airport’s security is so lax, Parker reported, that British tourists have been able to circumvent the airport’s standard security protocols by slipping airport personnel as little as 15 pounds. If you’re inclined to believe an explosive device took down Flight 9268 (as the U.S. government allegedly does), Parker’s story explains how such a device could have made its way onboard. It’s an undeniably juicy scoop.
The British magazine Private Eye, however, has an even juicier story-behind-the-story concerning the publication of Parker’s exposé. According to an unbylined piece in the magazine’s most recent issue, Parker proposed a similar investigation about Sharm El-Sheik’s security issues in June of this year—long before the crash of Flight 9268—only to be told by executives at News Corp, which owns The Sun, that his story would invite potential legal action in the United States. “So the Sun missed its chance the expose the security failings at Sharm el Sheik,” the piece concludes. “Five months later, 224 Russians were blown out of the sky.”
Private Eye does not publish the majority of its articles online, but readers in Britain began posting photos of the story on Twitter yesterday:
The latest Private Eye opens with what the Sun might call a stunner. pic.twitter.com/S76JapP2MQ— Richard Stanton (@RichStanton) November 11, 2015
The relevant portion:
It was while at Sharm airport in June this year that Parker heard of corrupt officials letting tourists avoid the queues—and bypass security and baggage checks—in return for cash backhanders. He contacted his newsdesk and proposed an exposé of the lax security that was jeopardising the lives of holidaymakers. He would find an official, offer a £20 note and see if he could indeed get a bag through to flight-side without any checking.
The newsdesk then contacted managing editor Stig Abell’s office, which informed chief compliance officer Imogen Haddon, who in turn consulted News Corp’s head office in new York and its management and standards committee (MSC)—whereupon an urgent message was sent to Parker ordering him not to go ahead.
News Corp’s reaction, the report argues, was based on the management and standards committee’s fear that “if [Parker] handed over £20 it might lead to charges against News Corp in America under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which applies to any company with US connections (such as News Corp) bribing foreign officials anywhere in the world.” The likelihood of such prosecution is unclear, but the committee’s apparent aversion to taking such risks is fairly understandable: It was formed, after all, in the wake of the News International phone-hacking and bribery scandals that led to the shuttering of News of the World. And one of the central characters in those scandals was none other than Nick Parker himself.
News Corp is not taking Private Eye’s allegations lightly, though. A spokeswoman for the company referred Gawker to the following tweets by Parker’s editor, Stig Abell, who forcefully denied the story’s particulars:
@jane__bradley Sadly, totally untrue. But nice to be blamed for a terrorist atrocity.— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) November 11, 2015
@jane__bradley Nick not doing any story on corruption at all, me not involved, Imogen on maternity leave at time, no NY discussion and so on— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) November 11, 2015
Private Eye did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Abell’s denials; we’ll update this post if we hear back from the magazine. If you know anything else about this—or any other stories that News Corp is sitting on!—please get in touch.