Johnson condemns ‘appalling’ abuse of BBC journalist by anti-lockdown protesters

Boris Johnson has condemned “disgraceful” footage of a BBC journalist being harassed and chased by anti-lockdown protesters in London.

Footage shared on social media showed demonstrators shouting abuse in the face of Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt near Downing Street on Monday.

Mr Watt, who was wearing a BBC lanyard, was forced to run through the mob beyond a line of police officers as people shouted “traitor” and other slurs at him.

Crowds had gathered in Westminster to protest against the Government’s extension of coronavirus restrictions in England by four weeks.

BBC Broadcasting House (Ian West/PA)
BBC Broadcasting House (Ian West/PA)

The Prime Minister tweeted: “Disgraceful to see the hounding of Nick Watt doing his job. The media must be able to report the facts without fear or favour – they are the lifeblood of our democracy.”

His Cabinet colleague, Home Secretary Priti Patel Patel tweeted: “The video of @BBCNewsnight’s Nick Watt being abused by a mob is appalling and distressing.

“This behaviour is never acceptable.”

She added: “The safety of journalists is fundamental to our democracy.

“This month the Government launched a consultation to better understand the nature & volume of threats and abuse against journalists who are operating in the UK.”

The BBC said in a statement: “This behaviour is completely unacceptable.

“All journalists should be able to carry out their work without intimidation or impediment.”

BBC journalist Allie Hodgkins-Brown tweeted: “This is awful. In Central London 2021. Disagree with us fine. Switch us off fine but no journalist deserves this.”

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Jo Stevens, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said: “This extremely disturbing footage showing clear intimidation of a journalist while carrying out his job is absolutely unacceptable and should be condemned in the strongest terms.

“It is shocking that a BBC lanyard makes someone a target like this.”

The Metropolitan Police said an investigation had been launched after a “number of possible offences” had been identified in the footage.

The force said in a statement: “We are aware of a video that has been shared online which shows a journalist being aggressively confronted and chased by a group of protesters in the vicinity of Whitehall on Monday June 14.

“The behaviour shown in the video is unacceptable. Members of the public, of any profession, have the right to go about their day without being subjected to verbal harassment or actions that put them in fear for their safety.”

After some online suggested officers should have intervened in the incident, the force said: “In this instance, while officers were nearby as part of the policing response to the ongoing protest, they were not in the immediate vicinity of the incident.

“It was not clear at the time exactly what had taken place but after reviewing the video footage, a number of possible offences have been identified and an investigation has been launched.”