Editor's comment: A member of the public threatened to get a shotgun and kill one of our reporters this week...for simply doing our job

We will not tolerate any threats of violence or abuse against our reporters

Friday, 12th March 2021, 3:58 pm

As journalists, we are used to negative reactions to stories we write, especially given the nature, and the seriousness, of the subject matter at times.

This is nothing new. As someone who has been in the industry for more than 30 years, it is something I have experienced on numerous occasions.

In recent years, and particularly the last 12 months, it has got worse. The level of abuse that my journalists, and journalists across the country, receive has increased exponentially.

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This week, the stark reality of this was brought into sharp focus when a member of the public threatened to kill one of my reporters.

It related to a court case that we had published on our website. A standard report of a court hearing, factually correct, the type we publish week in, week out. It is a fundamental part of a newspaper's role and an integral part of justice being seen to be done.

But this person disagreed. They complained about the publication of the article and during the course of the conversation told my reporter that they would get a shotgun and kill them.

It was both shocking and upsetting to the reporter concerned. As their editor, my first thought was for the welfare of the reporter and for the wider team. My second was one of anger and incredulity that someone believed making this threat was okay.

To say that this incident is totally unacceptable does not do justice to what happened and the impact of the actions.

I am writing this statement to let our readers, and the wider public, see the level this abuse has risen to and to make it clear that I will not tolerate any of my team being threatened or abused in any way, physically, verbally or on social media. This matter has been reported to the police, as will any other instances of abuse of my journalists.

Threats of physical violence, and in this case the threat of taking someone's life, will not be accepted, nor will any other form of abuse. It certainly will not stop us covering court cases in the future and will not stop us doing our jobs.

The issue of attacks on journalists is one that is being addressed nationally by the News Media Association in conjunction with the Government and an action plan is being drawn up to give further support and protection.

As part of that, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given his support. He said: “Freedom of speech and a free press are at the very core of our democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened.

“The cowardly attacks and abuse directed at reporters for simply doing their job cannot continue.

“This action plan is just the start of our work to protect those keeping the public informed, and defend those holding the government to account.”

We support this action and, sadly, we have experienced this week the reasons why it is necessary.