Actor Coogan says UK tabloids operate like Mafia

Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:19pm EST
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By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - Celebrities fear a backlash from the British tabloid press if they speak out at an inquiry into media standards, comedian and actor Steve Coogan said on Tuesday, adding that newspapers were like the Mafia in the way they operated.

A lawyer for film star Hugh Grant earlier warned that intimidatory newspaper tactics risked derailing the inquiry, ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron, after disclosures that reporters at the now defunct News of the World had hacked thousands of phones.

Coogan, best known in Britain for his portrayal of gauche TV presenter Alan Partridge, said he had lost count of the number of tabloid "kiss and tell" stories about him.

He denied a Daily Mail story from 2007 which alleged he took drugs with actor Owen Wilson. He said at the time of the alleged episode he had not been in the same continent as the actor for nine months.

The inquiry, which opened last week, is shining a harsh light on Britain's aggressive tabloid press, which trades on stories about the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Coogan, wearing a sober dark suit and tie, said he felt it was necessary to speak out about the media.

"Many other celebrities, for want of a better word, have told me that they agree with me and they would like to come (to the inquiry) but they don't have the stomach for it and they fear what will happen," he said.

He detailed tabloid tactics such as rooting through his rubbish bins and harassing friends and relatives for stories about him.   Continued...