Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor of The Sun, told the so-called Leveson Inquiry, the panel investigating alleged phone hacking by journalists, hitting newspapers where it hurts -- in the balance sheet -- is the most effective way to pressure editors and reporters to follow the commission's code of conduct, The Daily Telegraph reported Monday.
MacKenzie, who was editor of The Sun from 1981 to 1994, said Rupert Murdoch's News International, which publishes various newspapers, including The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World, should be punished.
"They [the PCC] were lied to by News International and they should pay a commercial penalty for that," he said. "The threat of financial penalty will have a straightforward effect on newspapers."
While MacKenzie said newspapers should be held accountable for being dishonest with the complaints commission, he said they should not be held responsible when some stories fall short of getting the facts entirely straight because different sources may give different version of events, the Telegraph said.
But he also complained newspapers are not treated equally.
"If you had Tony Blair's mobile number and you hacked into it and discovered that he was circumventing the Cabinet in order to go to war -- as has now emerged in the Iraq inquiry --and you publish that, if you publish it in The Sun, you get six months' jail. If you publish it in The Guardian, you get a Pulitzer prize," he said. "So it's very hard to know, to be truthful, what are standards when you're trying to discover truth."