Bodyguard for BBC editor facing threats


by Jessica Jacques

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuennsberg has been allocated a bodyguard by the Corporation while she is reporting from the 2017 Labour Conference in Brighton, UK, because of threats from online trolls. They threaten her with gender-based violence and accuse her of “unfair coverage“ of the party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The Times has published a photo of Kuenssberg, the BBC’s first female political editor, with a man who is a former soldier and now works as a security consultant for the BBC.

Laura Kuenssberg BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

Last year in the run up to the Brexit referendum, 41 year old female Member of Parliament Jo Cox died after being stabbed 15 times and shot three times outside a constituency event near Leeds, England. A court heard she was killed for “political and/or ideological reasons” by a man who had shown interest in far-right material in the month beforehand. Jo Cox supported the Remain campaign and received hate mail for months before her death.

A BBC survey has revealed that the overwhelming majority of female MPs from all parties receive violent abuse from the public, and one third have considered quitting politics because of it.  

Laura Kuennsberg  has previously been hissed and booed at UK Independence Party and Labour events. The Daily Telegraph has called her “the most divisive woman on TV today.”

The BBC has not commented or reported on the incidents.

Most media outlets are united in their condemnation of the need for a reporter to have a bodyguard. Writing in The Spectator, James Kirkup draws comparisons between the willingness of the UK to criticise less developed countries on their poor media freedom while at home their top reporter is unable to do her job without threat or intimidation.

At the 2017 Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge, BBC chair David Clementi said social media corporations and politicians should act to reduce “explicit and aggressive” attacks faced by BBC journalists. He noted that female correspondents in particular were being abused “on an almost daily basis.“

Reactions to the news on social media reflect the wider problem that Clementi remarked on. Tweets include one twitter user accusing Kuennsberg of „manfacturing a news story again“, another called her an „unsubtle propagandaist“

Some have exclaimed that Kuennsberg, in being accompanied by a bodyguard, is looking for attention, or “asking for it” (provoking extreme reactions) through her reporting. In the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff questions why “neither previous male holders of her job, nor the largely male political editors of titles overtly hostile to Corbyn, have been so singled out.”

Emma Barnett, a BBC Radio 5 Live presenter, grilled Corbyn on the costs of his childcare pledge, and was subsequently sent anti-Semitic messages.

Since he became Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has had a troubled relationship with most of Britain’s mainstream media and concentrates instead on social media.