Boris Johnson’s government pressured BBC journalists to avoid using the word ‘lockdown’


Boris Johnson’s government pressured BBC journalists to avoid using the word ‘confinement’ when reporting at the start of the pandemic and to be more critical of the Labour Party, ‘The Guardian’ has reported.

The editors of the British public television network asked their journalists not to use the English ending ‘lockdown’, according to emails and Whatsapp messages accessed by the cited newspaper.

The messages, dating from 2020 to 2022, show how Downing Street pressured the BBC not to use the term ‘lockdown’ after the closure ordered by Boris Johnson on March 23, 2020, claiming they were not talking about enforcing the law and were only urging people to stay at home.

»Hello everyone. Downing Street is asking if we can avoid the word ‘confinement.’ I was told that the message will be that they want to keep pushing people to stay at home, but they are not talking about enforcing the law at the moment,» reads one of the emails sent shortly after the then ‘premier’ announced the move.

British broadcaster journalists complained unsuccessfully about the request and, as a result, the BBC’s websites and broadcasts that day talked about »curbs» and »restrictions» on daily life, while other media such as the Sky network referred to »confinement».

In a WhatsApp message on Sunday 24 October 2021, a senior editor asked journalists for »more critical» coverage of the Labour Party following a complaint from No. 10 Downing Street.

»Downing Street complains that we’re not reflecting the Labour ‘Plan B’ mess on the internet (…) Can we increase the skepticism about this a bit?» the conversation reads.

The message was sent after the British government accused Labour of changing its position on coronavirus restrictions after presenting a ‘Plan B Covid’ with alternative restriction measures. That day, the BBC added a sidebar to the news story reporting on Labour’s proposal.

The information is published days after the British broadcaster was in controversy after it removed and reinstated former footballer Gary Lineker from its Match of the Day program days later after he compared British immigration reform to Nazi Germany on Twitter.

The leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat party, Ed Davey, called for the resignation of the BBC chairman, Richard Sharp, arguing that this controversy has demonstrated the »failure» of the leadership of the British broadcaster, whose »independence is in serious danger».

We need people who will stand up for our proud values and can resist the Conservative government’s consistently turbulent bullying policies,» he said.

Also the leader of the Labour opposition, Keir Starmer, has protested against the decision of the channel, which he has understood as »an act against impartiality» that has its origin in the failure of the current asylum system defended by the Conservative Party of the Prime Minister.