The BBC Twitter account of outspoken Welsh television newsreader Huw Edwards has been suspended amid claims that his possible departure from the airwaves may be connected with stricter rules on impartiality, after he endorsed a controversial independence group where ALL the committee members resigned in a row over harassment, and ‘liked’ a tweet saying vote Labour, it has emerged.
The account @huwbbc was discontinued, with officials saying: “Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules”.
One highlighted (ironically): “The wacky world where Wales was never a nation and Pembrokeshire is the heartland of… Plaid Cymru. Help!”. The picture he attached underneath it, was of protesters carrying Welsh flags aloft with a placard of END LONDON RULE clearly visible near the centre of the photograph.
He was ordered to drop a post of himself in front of a Welsh flag, which he proclaimed (once more ironically) was a “backdrop for @BBCNews at Ten”, and responded (again ironically): “Gutted my pro-flag tweet has been cut down in its prime. By order. But it will be back tomorrow – by popular demand. Meanwhile enjoy this magnificent flag – one of my favourites. Hashtag SixNationsRugby Hashtag FRAvWAL” – with a series of emojis included.
This tweet by Mr Edwards, came after a flurry of pro-Wales activity on his Twitter page before an international rugby match against France, when he stepped in following the performance of the Welsh rugby team being criticised in The Daily Telegraph.
“Every Grand Slam ranked – and why Wales would be the ‘worst’ ever winners if they beat France”, ran the newspaper’s headline, to which Mr Edwards responded with heavy irony: “Not like the @Telegraph to be so effortlessly one-sided… Cymru am Byth!”
His announcements, though, have not been met with wild acclaim by the leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) Andrew RT Davies, who has said on Twitter that The BBC was: “Employing presenters who openly mock… (Britain)… Ridiculous!”, and linked it to the ‘Gutted’ post.
However these tweets follow a familiar pattern.
Mr Edwards has recently ‘liked’ a tweet from a Welsh nationalist wearing a face mask of the controversial independence organisation YesCymru (YC), even though earlier this month the group’s entire ‘Central Committee’ quit, and an email announcing the mass resignations, said that members had been subject to intolerable harassment which “went far beyond social media posts”.
He has also ‘liked’ a tweet proclaiming he should be “President of an Independent Cymru”, once again apparently flying in the face of the rules on impartiality that have been emphasised by his superior, the BBC’s Director General Tim Davie (who stood as a councillor for the Conservatives in Hammersmith and was deputy of the Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative and Unionist Party).
In ‘liking’ this tweet, Mr Edwards had in effect validated it – but it was a highly-questionable supposed ‘survey’ where he had been ‘voted’ top to become leader of an independent Wales.
Mr Edwards has been, too, accused of political bias, after he ‘liked’ a tweet saying: “Vote Labour for the National Health Service”.
Yet the corporation’s rules on neutrality apparently forbid public approval of these sorts of comments, and clearly state: “If your work requires you to maintain your impartiality, don’t express a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics, or ‘controversial subjects’”.
If Mr Edwards believed he was in the clear if he took ‘BBC’ off his Twitter handle, he may be disappointed.
The BBC guidelines also state that staff should avoid using disclaimers such as ‘My views, not the BBC’s’ in their biographies and profiles, as they provide no defence against personal expressions of opinion.
But apparently flouting them, Mr Edwards has often waded into contentious areas, using his BBC handle and otherwise.
In an earlier tweet he had endorsed, as well, an opinionated columnist who said she was a “Welsh woman” and that the BBC Proms made her feel like a “foreign tourist”.
He had backed headline-grabbing writer and academic Laura McAllister’s Twitter announcement that there was less than two months before she stood for election to a football governing body’s council.
Mr Edwards stated on Twitter, initially once again ironically: “Obviously I’m impartial —- but GO LAURA” with a Welsh flag after the comment. However more than six years ago (well before the row over how the proms are presented), Ms McAllister had written in her regular Welsh newspaper column: “I do realise that my national identity has been shaped and expressed largely through sport, but the Proms’ Union Jack waving (albeit with a smattering of European, Welsh and Scottish flags mixed in) and Rule Britannia make me feel like a foreign tourist”.
Mr Davie will be aware of the pressure he is under because of (reputable) opinion polls, and that it is crucial his presenters are neutral, because, in Mr Edwards’ case, some may disagree with his views on Wales, and they pay his wages.
Recent comments on social media, though, are not the only ones where Mr Edwards’ views have been on public display.
He attacked a critique of the break-up of the UK by celebrated historian and journalist Max Hastings. Mr Edwards tweeted that there were “errors”.
His comments in support of Wales, or backing Labour policies, are often seized on gleefully, by a nationalist website which is backed by the taxpayer.
After Mr Edwards’ diatribe opposing Mr Hastings, the website Nation.Cymru (NC) published a ‘news’ piece saying: “Huw Edwards slams former Telegraph editor for anti-Welsh language article”, and it has ‘reported’ many ‘stories’ about his exploits. Following the remark about Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC), it ran a ‘story’ that: “Broadcaster Huw Edwards has protested the BBC’s new rules on using social media by unleashing a cascade of Welsh flags”.
But the founder and former Editor of NC, Ifan Morgan Jones, is himself controversial and a firm supporter of PC. He has been in trouble for accepting an advert from the Bangor University (BU) journalism course that HE teaches on, which detractors claimed was a blatant conflict of interest. They have also stressed the disturbing fact that teaching ‘journalism’ in this context appears odd when being unbiased is an important part of reporting news.
One NC ‘news’ piece said that: “The county of Gwynedd in the north-west has seen the largest collapse in consumer spending as a result of Covid-19 in both Wales and England, according to business data”, while another attacked the concept of second homes.
Yet one aggrieved writer hit back and said: “I am genuinely concerned by the amount of vitriol that comes out in the comments on the Nation.Cymru posts, and it makes me feel that we are uncomfortably close to the political posturing of 1930s Berlin”.
The article on NC criticising the concept of second homes, also appeared to have the Covid-19 lockdown in its sights, and began: “If it’s ‘coronavirus holiday’ season in rural Wales, the forecast is frosty for second home owners”, adding: “From spreading the virus and skipping lockdown to unfairly claiming business relief, second home owners have had bad pandemic press”.
Perhaps a bad press is the least of the worries of Mr Edwards after his BBC Twitter account was suspended, amid claims that his possible departure from the airwaves may be connected with stricter rules on impartiality, after he endorsed a controversial independence group where ALL the committee members resigned in a row over harassment, and ‘liked’ a tweet saying vote Labour..
Tomorrow – why the latest figures show local media circulation numbers still plunging, as one Editor in Wales urges those anxious to break into journalism to “write about street food”.
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Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.