Woman who called BBC journalist a ‘traitor’ said she ‘just wanted to talk’

·4 min read

A woman who called a BBC journalist a “traitor” during an anti-lockdown protest in Whitehall has told a court she was “sad” and “disappointed” he did not want to talk to her.

Djazia Chaib-Eddour, 44, is accused of being part of a crowd which intimidated Newsnight’s political editor Nick Watt during the politically charged June 2021 incident.

She told London’s Westminster Magistrates Court that she did not mean intimidate him and she “assumed” they were having a discussion.

Chaib-Eddour, Christopher Aitken, 62, Martin Hockridge, 58, Alexander Peat, 34, and Gary Purnell, 45, all deny using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to use harassment, alarm or distress.

She told the court: “It was a protest. You chant.

“Everybody goes into the same chant. It does not make me feel bad or sad.

“The word (traitor) is used in parliament a lot.”

Prosecutor Alex Matthews suggested “you shouted at him because you wanted him to feel upset”.

Chaib-Eddour responded: “I did not want him to feel upset. It was a protest. Have you ever seen a silent protest?”

The prosecution say Chaib-Eddour dogged Mr Watt’s steps and persisted with her behaviour even when it was clear he was not comfortable with the situation.

A “frenzied incident was whipped up in joint fervour” and the five defendants “engaged in mob rule,” the prosecution has said.

Chaib-Eddour told the court “I carried on speaking to him” and that he did not tell her to stop.

She added: “Can I just say, I wagged my finger at him and is that going to be a crime?

“I just walked alongside.

“I did call him traitor. I did not intend it to cause him any harm or distress. When he left all I could feel was sad. I did not feel anger.”

Footage played in court showed protesters shouting in the face of Mr Watt.

He has told the hearing that he had left his office in the parliamentary estate to observe what had initially been a “reasonably good natured” protest but the “atmosphere deteriorated”, prompting him to don his BBC lanyard to identify himself as press to police and demonstrators.

He first walked away from the crowd, but then took off running back through those behind him, eventually making his way behind the gates of Downing Street.

In the video, someone can be heard shouting “traitor”, while another person asked “how can you sleep at night?”

The court heard the experience had left Mr Watt “very shaken” and the footage had upset his family.

Mr Watt, who said was “like an express train” when he fled, earlier told the hearing: “I had become their prey, their quarry. It was like hunting a vulnerable animal.”

Chaib-Eddour said she spotted Mr Watt’s BBC lanyard and thought it would be chance to talk to him about reporting “honest journalism”.

Before then Chaib-Eddour, who was carrying what she described was a rainbow-coloured “protest umbrella” which had “defund the BBC” stickers on it, said she had “absolutely” no idea who he was. She does not watch the programme.

Chaib-Eddour said she had been “happy” to see him as she claimed there had been no BBC reporters at previous demonstrations.

She added: “I was excited with him. I wanted to have a conversation. ”

Chaib-Eddour described herself as a “naturally loud” person and said her interaction with Mr Watt lasted about 30 seconds to a minute as she was walking fast alongside him.

Amid the crowd noise, Mr Watt had put his head down and she “assumed” he was listening to her but then he spun around and she turned around to get her umbrella out of the way.

Chaib-Eddour said Mr Watt did not ask for help or appear to be under distress, adding: “It is actually really sad. Most people engage with me. I am a friendly person.”

The court heard the word “traitor” was shouted at Mr Watt as he ran past and was in front of Chaib-Eddour.

Aitken, of Lambeth, Hockridge, of Harpenden, Herts, Chaib-Eddour, of Islington, Peat, of Wandsworth, and Purnell, of Shepherd’s Bush, sat quietly in the dock as District Judge Louisa Cieciora reserved her decision to a date which has yet to be fixed.

The defendants were all unconditionally bailed and told they must return to court for the next hearing.

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