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7:18pm UK, Friday February 17, 2012
Rupert Murdoch has told staff at The Sun that a new Sunday paper, ‘The Sun On Sunday’, will be launched “very soon”.
The News Corporation chairman is in the UK to take charge of the latest crisis involving one of his titles.
He addressed staff at The Sun’s offices in Wapping, east London, on Friday morning following the arrest of 10 current and former reporters and executives at the paper over alleged corrupt payments to public officials.
He then spent time on the editorial floor on Friday afternoon before departing by car.
There has been increasing speculation that a Sunday version of the tabloid would be published after the closure of sister paper the News Of The World (NOTW) last summer over the phone hacking scandal.
In an email ahead of a meeting he confirmed that the new paper was in the pipeline, and sought to reassure Sun employees of his commitment to the tabloid.
“I am confident we will get through this together and emerge stronger,” he wrote.
He said he was lifting the suspensions of all Sun staff who had been arrested.
“We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested – all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work,” the email said.
The Wapping site also included the News Of The World
“News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.”
Mr Murdoch also said the company would obey the law and assist the police.
He said he would ensure “all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, which I know are essential for all of you to do your jobs”.
However he added: “But we cannot protect people who have paid public officials.”
Mr Murdoch travelled to the UK in a private jet on Thursday night and told his staff he will be staying in London for several weeks to offer “unwavering support”.
Earlier this month, five Sun journalists were arrested in dawn raids in connection with alleged corrupt payments to public officials. Five others were arrested in November.
Some staff expressed anger that News Corporation’s Management Standards Committee (MSC), established during the phone hacking scandal, gave officers the information that prompted the arrests.
Sources have described a “witch hunt” against the newspaper.
On Monday, Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor of The Sun, said: “There is unease about the way some of the best journalists in Fleet Street have ended up being arrested on evidence which the MSC has handed to the police.”
Last weekend Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News International, the division of News Corp that publishes The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, said Mr Murdoch had personally told him of his “total commitment to continue to own and publish” The Sun.
The NOTW closed last July after it emerged the mobile phone belonging to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been hacked.
Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said she had already been approached by some Sun staff for support.
She has criticised claims the MSC identified confidential sources to detectives.
Michael Wolff, a biographer of Mr Murdoch, told Sky’s Adam Boulton he did not believe News International would ever produce a Sunday version of The Sun – because “outside events are in its way”.
News Corporation owns a 39% stake in BSkyB, which owns Sky News.