NMA Condemns Abuse Of BBC Journalist

The abuse and harassment of journalists has no place in our democratic society, the News Media Association has said, after a BBC reporter was forced to flee a mob of anti-lockdown protestors on Monday.

Newsnight political editor Nick Watt was forced to take refuge at the Downing Street security gate after being subjected to abuse during a protest in Whitehall attracting widespread condemnation.  

Demonstrators, who could be heard swearing and calling him a “traitor” and “scum” had criticised Watt for media coverage of the pandemic and also claimed he had under-reported the number of people present at the anti-lockdown protest, The Times reported.

The NMA said: “Journalists are the eyes and ears of the public and attempts to stifle their reporting through violence, abuse and intimidation amount to an attack on the public right to know.

“The NMA and the news media industry stand against these deplorable attacks on freedom of speech which have no place in our democratic society.”

With other industry stakeholders, the NMA sits on the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists which endorsed the UK’s first national action plan to protect journalists from abuse and harassment.

The plan was published in March and sets out how journalists will be protected from threats of violence and intimidation and includes new measures to research the problem and training for police forces and journalists.

A Home Office consultation, which closes on 14 July, has been launched as part of the work, urging journalists to share their experiences of abuse and intimidation in order to inform Government’s work going forward.  

Surveys by industry bodies have shown that abuse and intimidation of journalists is on the rise.  

Responding to an NMA editors survey for Journalism Matters last year, more than a third of local editors reported an increase in abuse of themselves or their journalists on social media during the coronavirus pandemic. 

A separate survey of members of the National Union of Journalists in November found that more than half of respondents had experienced online abuse while nearly a quarter had been physically assaulted or attacked.

And a study published by Behind Local News found that more than 80 per cent of regional journalists said the problem of abuse has got “significantly worse” since they began their careers.

Anecdotes submitted to the survey include female journalists being threatened with rape, reporters being racially abused, reporters having their families threatened and having their personal information published online.