• Murdoch’s Guto Harri hiding behind ‘Free Speech Network’
  • The Sun pressures celebrities to write articles
  • Figures approached include Salman Rushdie

With the Lord Leveson’s report due to be released tomorrow, The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh wrote on Monday of the softly-softly lobbying campaign run by former BBC chief political correspondent and Boris Johnson director of communications Guto Harri:

“Some others are playing a more cautious game. The normally powerful News International has been consistently opposed to any statutory intervention. But rather than play its hand aggressively in public, it has been content to run a more discreet lobbying operation, centred around Guto Harri, its director of communications.”

Quite. While the official vehicle set up to oppose regulation, the Free Speech Network, conspicuously makes no mention of links to News International or News Corporation, emails obtained by Scrapbook show that Harri is clearly pulling the strings:

>> Hello
>> How’s life
>> Wondered if any of your clients would like to be associated with this?
>> Its a new alliance set up to respond to leveson, counter hacked off, and make the case for a free press (against statutory regulation)
>> Launch next week.
>> They could attend but a couple of lines for our website would be
>> perfect from eg salman rushdie
>> Hope you’re well
>> Guto x
>> Sent from my iPad

Meanwhile, The Sun is trying to persuade celebrities to attack statutory regulation in tomorrow’s paper. The paper’s head of features, Carolin Iggulden, is firing off emails asking for 300-word contributions:

“We are getting together a  selection of pieces from high profile figures from the world of politics, entertainment, religion, journalism  etc  about the importance of press freedom to coincide with the publication of the Leveson Report on Thursday.”

While the hacking scandal singed NewsCorp’s wings, its ability to project fear means many who rely on the Murdoch machine for favourable publicity are afraid to say ‘no’.

With one of the principle attacks on Hacked Off being that it was fronted by celebrities, how ironic that the press want their anti-Leveson campaign to be fronted by, erm, celebrities.

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