Journalist ‘gagged’ by broadcaster after pressure from SNP





15 hrs ago / Exclusive by Tom Gordon and Daniel Sanderson

STV has been accused of gagging one of its journalists after “bullying” by the SNP.

The broadcaster was yesterday criticised for caving into political
pressure, while the party was accused of intimidating the media.

The row erupted after it emerged STV had called a halt to its digital
politics and comment editor Stephen Daisley writing articles for its

Mr Daisley, who was defended against a previous SNP attack by Harry Potter author JK Rowling, regularly courted controversy.

He called himself “a friend” of Labour, accused Jeremy Corbyn of
supping with anti-Semites, and said the SNP was “expert at mining
grievance from even the most innocuous act or statement” and had the
“preponderance of zoomers” in Scottish politics.

He had contributed one or two opinion pieces per week since 2014.

However STV has not published any of his articles since July 19.

The broadcaster said he remained a key contributor but its output had “evolved”.

The decision followed mounting pressure from the SNP over the
broadcaster’s digital content and Mr Daisley in particular, with
complaints first raised at an event hosted by STV executives at
Westminster in the spring.

SNP culture spokesman John Nicolson and chairman of the Scottish
Affairs Committee Pete Wishart, who met STV, also questioned Mr
Daisley’s output via social media.

In June, JK Rowling came to Mr Daisley’s defence on Twitter after Mr
Wishart asked whether one his comments was his own view or “just the
view of the ‘digital arm’ of the STV family?”

Ms Rowling responded: “Is trying to intimidate journalists you dislike @theSNP policy or just a vendetta of your own?”

Last month, Mr Nicolson posted a dozen late-night tweets questioning
Mr Daisley’s ability and neutrality after he appeared to recommend a
notorious Twitter account called Brian Spanner, which often posts
misogynist abuse of female politicians.

Mr Nicolson, a former BBC journalist who is now MP for East
Dunbartonshire, wrote: “[Daisley] is meant to be a neutral journalist –
not an activist.”

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He went on: “I think @WeAreSTV wanted him to be a witty gadfly. Not
working… I think they were naive. They – and he – thought he’d be witty
click bait. Alas he’s no @JamieRoss7 [Scotland correspondent for

A day later the MP even suggested Mr Daisley might be behind the Brian Spanner account.

Asked by a Twitter user if that was possible, he replied: “Who knows.
He certainly seems to admire him enough to recommend him. Which is odd
as he’s a neutral @WeAreSTV editor.”

Scottish Conservative culture spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “There
are two elements of real concern here. Firstly, a broadcaster as
mainstream as STV is buckling to nationalist pressure. Secondly, the SNP
continues to believe it can behave in this fashion.

“Gagging journalists is totally unacceptable in Scotland. However, it
seems SNP high command feels it can bully broadcasters and that even STV
will be forced to oblige.”

LibDem MSP Mike Rumbles added: “That the SNP felt compelled to lean on
STV to stop a journalist writing says more about them than it does
Stephen Daisley.”

“During the referendum we saw crowds protesting at BBC Scotland with
the tacit backing of Alex Salmond and senior colleagues. This sorry
episode suggests nothing has changed.”

A Labour source added: “The SNP have a track record of intimidating
journalists. It’s very concerning the party of government continues to
attempt to silence any criticism against it.”

STV declined to comment on the accusation it had buckled to political pressure.

A spokeswoman said: “STV continues to develop and invest in political
coverage, particularly since the launch of our enhanced digital news
service earlier this year.

“Our output and content will continue to evolve and Stephen Daisley is
a key contributor to this as we enter the new parliamentary session.”

An SNP spokeswoman said Mr Nicolson and Mr Wishart met STV executives
“to discuss STV’s importance as a leading broadcaster and commercial
production company”.

But she added: “At no point did they ask for Mr Daisley to stop
writing and any suggestion otherwise is completely untrue. Any editorial
decisions are entirely a matter for STV.”

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