NUJ backs Emily Maitlis in Newsnight row

The NUJ has condemned the BBC after Emily Maitlis was replaced as Newsnight’s presenter following comments about Dominic Cummings.

In a monologue on Tuesday night, Emily Maitlis said: “Dominic Cummings broke the rules – the country can see that and it’s shocked the government cannot.

“The longer ministers and the Prime Minister insist he worked within them, the more likely the angry response to the scandal is likely to be … He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools, and has allowed many more to assume they can flout them.”

Referring to Boris Johnson’s “blind loyalty” to Cummings, despite falling popularity, she said: “The Prime Minister knows all this and has chosen to ignore it.”

After the broadcast, the BBC released a statement saying: “We believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality. Our staff have been reminded of the guidelines.”

Emily Maitlis was last night replaced as presenter by reporter Katie Razzall. Newsnight editor Esme Wren tweeted she “hasn’t been replaced tonight in response to the BBC statement”, while Emily Maitlis herself tweeted she had asked for the night off, and Katie Razzall tweeted: “Just for the record, Emily @maitlis has not been asked by the BBC to take tonight off – and if I thought she had been, I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to present the show @BBCNewsnight.”

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “At a time of national crisis, frank and fearless journalism that scrutinises and holds this government to account is more necessary than ever. Emily Maitlis exemplifies those qualities – if she’s been stood down and replaced as a result of her tenacious reporting, that is an act of shameful cowardice by our public service broadcaster.

“It is as clear as day that Dominic Cummings breached government lockdown guidelines – just because government ministers are prepared to demean themselves by asserting otherwise, to protect a seemingly untouchable Number 10 advisor, does not make it true. Journalists should be congratulated for holding policymakers to account for actions that risk a monumental breach of trust during a public health crisis. They should certainly not be castigated.”

NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul Siegert said: “NUJ members across the corporation are outraged at the treatment of a respected colleague and a key face of the BBC. It is wholly unacceptable for journalists to be pilloried on social media, and let down by their employer, for doing their jobs whilst scrutinising decision-making and holding the government to account.”

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