Scottish independence: 'Stop intimidating journalists', National Union of Journalists pleads to campaigners

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said abuse and serious threats of violence have been made on reporters covering the referendum, often through anonymous social media accounts

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The Independent Online

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said it will not tolerate the intimidation of reporters covering Scottish independence, warning that the bullying of those with differing opinions to oneself is a “threat to press freedom”.

The union said it was concerned by the increase in abuse – much of it via social media – directed at its members from “both sides of the campaign” and called for it to stop.

Its public appeal came a day after at least 1,000 people demonstrated outside the headquarters of BBC Scotland against what they claimed was biased coverage of the referendum.

At the Glasgow protest on Sunday, demonstrators said that the public broadcaster is institutionally biased in favour of the Union and also called for the sacking of Political Editor Nick Robinson after the journalist came head-to-head with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond days prior.


In the lengthy entreaty to campaigners, the NUJ said that personal attacks including some serious threats of violence have been made on journalists “for doing their jobs” and that it “will not accept this treatment” of its members.

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The union warned that it will “name and shame individuals and organisations that continue to threaten or bully our members”, and that it has already advised some in making approaches to police.

“More widely, the NUJ asks the leadership on both sides to consider carefully the implications of their attacks on journalists for asking challenging questions,” the union said.

“If that is to be interpreted as bias, and therefore the journalist is deemed to be open to personal criticism and abuse, then the nature of public debate will be debased, and we will all suffer.”

Yes campaigners march towards the BBC Scotland headquarters in Glasgow on 14 September 2014

Paul Holleran, NUJ’s Scottish Organiser, said how Labour MPs claiming that the BBC is guilty of political bias against the Better Together campaign goes to show that factions on both sides of the debate have accused the broadcaster of partiality.

“People have the right to protest if they believe strongly about an issue, however protesters outside the BBC offices in Glasgow this weekend have demanded that journalists be sacked, for allegedly being biased in favour of the union,” Mr Holleran said.

“Journalists in Edinburgh and Aberdeen were abused over the weekend when simply turning up to report on events organised by both sides.

“Robust debate is fine. Pointing out when journalists get their facts wrong is expected and welcomed. But NUJ members believe in a free press, a fair media, with journalists allowed to do their jobs free of intimidation.”

The union also asked for news organisations to refrain from publishing attacks on journalists at rival outlets.