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BBC journalist abused and chased by anti-lockdown protesters in London

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Footage showing a BBC journalist being harassed and chased by anti-lockdown protesters in London has been condemned by the broadcaster.

The video shared on social media shows Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt being verbally abused by people near Downing Street on Monday.

Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned the footage as “appalling and distressing”.

She 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.”

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Mr Watt, who was wearing a BBC lanyard, was confronted by people, not wearing masks, shouting “traitor” and other slurs close to his face.

He was then forced to turn around and run away from the mob, some of whom chased him.

The video shows him running to beyond a line of police officers, although it is not clear if he informed any of them about the abuse.

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

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.”

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine demonstrators take part in a protest near Downing Street in Westminster, central London
Image: Yesterday’s demonstration took place outside the Houses of Parliament and down Whitehall in Westminster, central London

Fellow 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.”

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.”

Mr Watt has not commented on the incident publicly.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement they are aware of the video.

“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,” it 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.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.