The first day of the Brian Leveson inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press was told of hitherto unknown facts, revealing the scale of unethical and illegal practices allegedly adopted at the News of the World tabloid owned by Murdoch.
Robert Jay, counsel for the inquiry called phone-hacking a thriving cottage industry in the media.
He said that Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who worked for the now closed tabloid, was asked 2,266 times to dig information about individuals.
His diary named 28 journalists of News International, but Jay said phone-hacking may not be limited to News International.
'The inquiry is beginning to receive evidence to indicate that phone hacking was not limited to that organisation (News International),' he said.
The police found 690 audio recordings when Mulcaire’s offices were raided in 2006. Muclaire intercepted 586 voicemails, intended for 64 people, between 2001 and 2009.
He also made 318 calls to people’s voicemail numbers, Jay told the inquiry.
Of the 2,266 times he was asked to find out information, 2,143 were tasked by four journalists, whose names were not revealed on the first day of the hearing.
Mulcaire also carried out 38 occasions of blagging (posing as someone else on the phone and asking for personal data).
Jay outlined six categories of press m isbehaviour that the British inquiry will look at: Electronic surveillance or intrusion; data theft (for example, going through bins or stealing diaries); agent provocateur; payments to witnesses or private investigators; phone and email hacking; catch-all: unfair, unethical and underhand press activities.
Opening the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Justice Leveson today warned editors not to victimise individuals who depose before the inquiry and who may criticise their publications.
He said the inquiry would monitor press coverage for any signs of witnesses being targeted. Leveson said concerns had been raised that the press might target those who spoke out against it during the inquiry.
He aims to conclude the inquiry by the end of September 2012.
'I have absolutely no wish to stifle freedom of speech and expression, but I anticipate that monitoring will take place of press coverage over the months to come,' he said.
'And if it appears that those concerns are made out, without objective justification, it might be appropriate to draw the conclusion that these vital rights are being abused, which itself would provide evidence of culture, practice and ethics which could be relevant to my ultimate recommendations,' Justice Leveson said.
The probe panel chief made it clear that he fully considers 'freedom of expression and freedom of the press to be fundamental to our democracy.'
'But that freedom must be exercised with the rights of others in mind.'