Who is BBC journalist Nick Watt and why was he targeted by anti-lockdown protesters?

A BBC journalist was chased and abused as an anti-lockdown protest outside Westminster turned ugly, yesterday, June 14.

A video circulating on social media showed BBC Newsnight journalist Nick Watt being followed by a large mob chanting "traitor" and "scum". But what happened and who is he?

Who is BBC journalist Nick Watt?

In 2016, Watt left The Guardian to become political editor of Newsnight on BBC Two, replacing Allegra Stratton.

He started as a political reporter based in Belfast working for The Times as Ireland Correspondent, covering the initial stages of the peace process in the early nineties.

In 1997, he was based in London following his appointment as political correspondent for The Times, before joining The Guardian a year later where he worked as European editor and chief political correspondent. Between 2007 and 2008, he was the acting political editor of The Observer.

In 2012, he appeared on Press Gazette's list of the 'top 50 political reporters', at number 14.

The editor of Newsnight, also a former Guardian employee, Ian Katz,said that Watt was "one of the most trusted, authoritative and engaging journalists in the country.

With a background in Northern Ireland, Europe and Westminster he's also renowned guide viewers through an increasingly fractured and complex political landscape."

What happened to Nick Watt?

Footage first captured Watt walking quickly through Whitehall near police in high-vis jackets.

In the video, the journalist – who wore a blue BBC lanyard around his neck – was then followed closely by a man wearing a leather waistcoat and a blonde woman in a minidress who pointed their fingers at him.

Mr Watt, who wore a blue face mask, then turned to escape their path – only for a crowd of around 15 to chase him across a road.

But more quickly followed – and the campaigners turned nasty, chanting abuse at him as he kept his head down.

One man in a navy jacket then grabbed Mr Watt by the shoulder as he recorded the incident with his mobile phone.

Others shouted at him: "Why have you lied?"

The reporter was finally forced to run away as the crowd pressed in and began booing.

He returned to the line of cops – and pushed through a barrier into Downing Street to escape as protesters shouted: "Shame on you."

Ex-GMB host Piers Morgan hit out at the footage, writing: “Disgusting ignorant scum. Too thick to realise this journalist has nothing to do with Govt policies.”

BBC newsdesk duty editor Neil Henderson tweeted the video, commenting: “A BBC Correspondent doing his job in Whitehall yesterday. Where does this end?”

Fellow BBC journalist Allie Hodgkins-Brown slammed the mob, writing on Twitter: “This is awful. In Central London 2021. Disagree with us fine. Switch us off fine but no journalist deserves this.”

Stefan Simanowitz added: “Disturbing footage of BBC Newsnight’s Nick Watt, being pursued by anti-lockdown protesters."

Why did protestors target him?

The incident was a part of protests against the Government’s extension of coronavirus restrictions in England by four weeks taking place in Westminster on Monday June 14.

At one point a man grabs Mr Watt’s shoulder and shouts in his face before another member of the crowd asks “why did you lie and say lockdowns are legal, how can it be legal to lock people in their house”.

But it is not clear specifically why the journalist was targeted.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed they are investigating the incident and have requested witnesses to come forward with information.

In a statement, the force said: "We are aware of a video circulating online from Monday, 14 June in Whitehall during a protest. This sort of behaviour is not acceptable and police are investigating the incident."

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