Anti-vaccination protesters, including one holding a placard against coronavirus vaccine passports, gather in Parliament Square outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on July 19, 2021. Two BBC journalists were threatened when they were caught up in a protest against COVID-19 restrictions in England's North Sea coast. (AFP/Tolga Akmen)

BBC news crew threatened by COVID-19 protesters in UK

Berlin, September 14, 2021 — United Kingdom authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the threats against journalist Phillip Norton and his crew and ensure their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On August 28, demonstrators protesting the government’s measures to curb COVID-19 in Scarborough, a resort town on England’s North Sea coast, surrounded and threatened Norton, a reporter for public broadcaster BBC, his cameraman, and a site producer, the journalist told CPJ via messaging app and local news site Yorkshire Live reported. CPJ was unable to determine the name of the cameraman or the site producer.

Norton tweeted that the three were in the area on assignment covering a story about the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions when they were caught up in the protests.

In video footage Norton published on Twitter, a group of around 8 to 10 protesters cornered the journalists, shouting insults at them as one holding a megaphone threatened to hang Norton saying, “You will hang for what you’ve done to this country,” and “The nooses are ready.”

Norton also said on Twitter that the journalists were called “pedophiles,” “murderers,” “scumbags,” and “complicit.” Another man in the group appeared to make a cutthroat gesture, Yorkshire Live reported.

“U.K. authorities must rapidly and fully investigate the threats made against journalist Phillip Norton and his crew, find the perpetrators, and hold them to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Journalists must be able to do their work without intimidation and fear of being harassed and attacked.”

Norton said that on September 2 he gave a statement to the police in Yorkshire and they are investigating the incident. CPJ emailed the press office of the North Yorkshire police but did not receive a reply.

Editor’s note: The fact that there was a third member of Norton’s crew, a site producer, has been updated throughout.