Belfast Telegraph

Sadly, abuse that Nick got goes with job

By Liam Clarke

All sympathy to Nick Robinson, the BBC political correspondent who got a wretched time from Scottish nationalists after clashing with their leader Alex Salmond. For his temerity in "heckling" the great leader he was demonised on posters displayed by a mob that gathered outside the BBC.

The words 'British Backed Corruption' appeared beside his picture. Above it there was a Photoshopped David Cameron brandishing a bloody axe and declaring 'Vote No And I'll Cut The NHS To Bloody Bits'. Nasty stuff for a journalist to face. Mr Robinson even wrote to his colleagues on BBC Scotland to apologise for "becoming the story" and bringing the wrath of the nationalists down on their head.

That being said, Tom Bradby, ITN's political editor, surely took solidarity too far when he said this was amongst the worst behaviour he had seen meted out to the Press in 25 years working for ITN and was "highly unusual in the democratic world".

To make the point, he recalled that when he was in Northern Ireland in the early Nineties "despite the fact that there was a bitter war going on all round me that took many lives, I experienced virtually no personal hostility at all from anyone. They didn't lob accusations of bias around every time you asked a question, either".

I know Tom Bradby, who is a brave and tenacious journalist. Yet perhaps his time on the sunny side of the street hobnobbing with Wills and Kate as royal correspondent has coloured his view of the past.

Has he forgotten how, in Jakarta, he was hit in the leg with a flare attached to a chain during post-election riots? That was in 2001, the very year that Sunday World's Martin O'Hagan was murdered here in Northern Ireland.

Many journalists have been threatened as severely as Nick Robinson.

I was forced to move house due to loyalist and republican threats and sent to work in England for a period in the Eighties and Nineties. I can remember at least two BBC journalists forced to move to England, while several journalists, myself included, were arrested here for doing our jobs.

During the loyalist flag protests just two years ago my colleague Adrian Rutherford was surrounded by a mob, jostled and threatened before having his phone stolen.

Unfortunately, many of us know exactly how Nick Robinson feels. Sadly, his circumstances are not that unusual.

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