, ‘Traitor’: Anti-lockdown mob out of control, The Nzuchi Times

‘Traitor’: Anti-lockdown mob out of control

, ‘Traitor’: Anti-lockdown mob out of control, The Nzuchi Times

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned anti-lockdown protesters who chased a BBC journalist down the street in London, screaming in his face.

The journalist in question is Nick Watt, political editor of the program Newsnight.

Watt was in Whitehall, near the Houses of Parliament and the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, to film a segment about Mr Johnson’s decision to extend the current Covid-19 lockdown in England until July 19.

The restrictions were previously expected to lift on June 21. To justify his decision, Mr Johnson cited the growing prevalence of the more infectious Delta variant, which appears to have originated in India.

“By being cautious now, we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people,” he said.

This decision infuriated anti-lockdown campaigners, who were outside Downing St to protest.

Footage taken by one of the protesters, and broadcast on their YouTube channel, initially shows Watt being followed by a small group of demonstrators. A woman holding a rainbow umbrella is particularly close to him, shouting and pointing.

He turns and walks through a line of police in an attempt to shake her off. The law enforcement officers take no action.

The crowd pursuing Watt then grows larger and louder.

“Run you f***ing c***,” yells one of the protesters. Several of them start chanting the word “traitor”.

“Why have you lied and said the lockdowns are legal? How can it be legal to lock people in their houses?” asks one of the calmer people behind the camera.

At this point the journalist reverses direction and pushes his way back through the crowd, several men getting into his face on the way past.

He starts to jog away, as the mob shouts “scum”. Several men break into a run to chase him.

Watt makes it back past the police line he’d encountered earlier. While again, the officers do not stop the crowd, he is able to find safety on the other side of a security gate.

The BBC released a statement from its director-general, Tim Davie, in response to the incident.

“The safety of journalists is fundamental to any democracy. They must be able to report unhindered, free from abuse,” Mr Davie said.

“There is absolutely no justification for any journalist to be treated in this way.”

The National Union of Journalists has asked the Metropolitan Police to review their response to the incident.

“The hounding and abuse levelled at Newsnight’s Nick Watt outside Downing Street yesterday by anti-lockdown protesters was frightening and outrageous,” the union’s general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said.

“It is genuinely shocking that a man escaping a mob screaming at him, shouting ‘traitor’ and calling him ‘scum’, didn’t result in the police immediately intervening. Action should be taken against these thugs. No one should have to tolerate such abusive behaviour and harassment simply for doing their job.”

, ‘Traitor’: Anti-lockdown mob out of control, The Nzuchi Times

The Met, for its part, initially claimed its officers “were not in the immediate vicinity of the incident”, before correcting that statement when a longer video emerged.

“The behaviour shown in the video is unacceptable,” the police said.

“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.”

They said a man in his fifties had been interviewed by detectives in relation to the incident. A second man is still being sought.

“Disgraceful to see the hounding of Nick Watt doing his job,” Boris Johnson said.

“The media must be able to report the facts without fear or favour. They are the lifeblood of our democracy.”

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, echoed that sentiment, calling the footage “appalling and distressing”.

“This behaviour is never acceptable. The safety of journalists is fundamental to our democracy,” said Ms Patel.

Labour MPs made similar statements condemning the incident.

“I won’t share the video, but the footage of BBC journalist Nick Watt being chased and harassed by an anti-lockdown mob is absolutely disgraceful. This behaviour has no place whatsoever in any democratic nation,” said Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, a member of the opposition’s shadow cabinet.

“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,” said shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens.

Watt’s colleagues in the British media also spoke out in his defence.

“Harassing and intimidating any journalist is completely unacceptable. All journalists should be able to do their work without impediment or risking their safety,” said Newsnight editor Esme Wren.

“The video of Nick Watt being chased and abused by a mob is absolutely horrifying,” said Jess Brammar, a former deputy editor at the program.

“It’s disgusting, he’s doing his job. I know the BBC will be rightly furious about it. This is what stoking up hatred (not criticism, that’s completely different) against journalists and the BBC looks like.

“You know who you are if you’ve played that game. I hope you have the decency to feel a bit of shame about it. Is that the society you want to live in? This isn’t a game anymore.”

“Disgraceful treatment,” said Andrew Neil, a veteran broadcaster and chairman of GB News. He called Watt “a fine reporter and good friend”.

“What are the police doing?” wondered Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges.

“Why are we allowing mob rule to masquerade as peaceful protest?”

More Stories
Jude Hamer: ‘A professional women’s wheelchair basketball league only ever seemed like a pipe dream’