The footage of BBC Newsnight reporter Nick Watt being hounded by anti-lockdown ‘protesters’ outside Downing Street was shocking.
Shouting “traitor” at him and accusing him of “lying” about lockdowns being legal, the video of an aggressive anti-lockdown mob turning on one journalist was human behaviour at its very worst.
Thankfully, Mr Watt managed to sprint away and escape without coming to harm.
However, the unsavoury incident does raise some serious questions.
Where were the police, and why did they initially release a defensive statement saying they were “not in the immediate vicinity of the incident” when footage later emerged that they were?
In Westminster of all places, surely journalists can expect to be able to go about their jobs without risking their lives.
The scene was reminiscent of what became a regular feature of Donald Trump’s campaign rallies in the US. A baying mob turning on the media present, egged on by the commander-in-chief.
While the prime minister has called the incident “disgraceful”, it’s worth noting that 30 years ago Mr Johnson was secretly recorded agreeing to provide the address of the News of the World reporter Stuart Collier, who his friend Darius Guppy wanted to have beaten up for his investigative work.
Years later, when the audio recording was played back to him, Mr Johnson simply laughed and said, “That conversation could indeed seem embarrassing.”
Mr Johnson’s government and the authorities must do much more to stamp out the abuse of journalists which festers on social media and catches fire in real life in moments like yesterday’s ugly scenes.
The truth is that this incident could have become much worse, and what sort of democracy are we living in if journalists can’t go about their jobs without the threat of violence?
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