SYDNEY (AP) — Rupert Murdoch's Australian media company said Wednesday it will conduct a "thorough review" of all editorial expenditures over the past three years to confirm that payments were made for legitimate services.
Murdoch's media empire in Britain has suffered a crippling blow in recent days following allegations that his newspapers used fraudulent means to obtain information, including paying bodyguards of Queen Elizabeth II for sensitive phone numbers and travel plans.
In Australia, Murdoch's company News Limited owns a string of newspapers and websites. In an open letter to staff, News Limited's Chief Executive John Hartigan said the company's conduct has been above board.
"I have absolutely no reason to suspect any wrongdoing at News Limited," he said in the letter, addressed to "All News Limited staff in Australia."
"We will be conducting a thorough review of all editorial expenditure over the past three years to confirm that payments to contributors and other third parties were for legitimate services," he wrote.
The Australian-born Murdoch's reputation began to unravel following allegations this month that employees of his News of the World tabloid hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old murder victim, and deleted several messages in 2002.
The billionaire Murdoch closed the tabloid Sunday but could not stem the outrage in Britain as new allegations emerged that his journalists used fraudulent and criminal means to obtain confidential information about former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's family.
Hartigan, the Australian executive, noted that a local television station apologized for an incorrect report that News Limited executives were suspects in the British phone hacking scandal.
"Some media outlets, certain commentators and some politicians have attempted to connect the behavior in the UK with News Limited's conduct in Australia. This is offensive and wrong," he wrote.
He said News Limited has a robust code of editorial conduct, available to all journalists.
"I (have) asked divisional managers to publish the editorial code on each of our masthead websites to neutralize even the most ludicrous assertions that we are somehow afraid to disclose it," he said.
Murdoch owns at least 20 newspapers, several news websites and cable television service in Australia, where he began his media career in 1952 after inheriting "The News" newspaper after the death of his father.
He gave up his Australian passport and took up U.S. citizenship in 1985 to meet legal requirements for owning U.S. television stations. His U.S.-based News Corp., the global media conglomerate, owns the Australian News Limited.