Naga Munchetty Says News Broadcasters Are 'Not Robots' Who Are There To 'Blankly Read The News'

Ash Percival

BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty has said that broadcasters are not “robots” who are there to “blankly read the news”.

Last year, the BBC ruled Naga had breached their guidelines around impartiality when she commented on racist remarks made by US president Donald Trump in a tweet telling female Democrats to “go back” to their own countries.

The broadcaster’s decision was eventually overturned by former BBC Director General Tony Hall following a huge backlash to the original ruling.

Asked about the matter while speaking on the Women’s Prize For Fiction Podcast, Naga said that while she did not offer an opinion during the broadcast, she noted that journalists are “impartial but we are not idiots”.

Naga Munchetty  (Photo: PA)

“I sit on that sofa as a woman, as a person of colour from an ethnic minority who is not a robot. We’re talking about Black Lives Matter now, we’re talking about George Floyd.

“Just today, I was on the phone to a colleague who is bereft at the moment. She is mixed race and she is bereft about trying to figure out how we are in a situation again where a man has been killed and the colour of his skin cannot be ignored in terms of the circumstances surrounding his death. 

“We are not robots,” she said. “We are not there to simply blankly read the news, that isn’t our job.

“We are judging the tone of the morning, we are judging the tone of those who are watching, we are judging what they need to know and informing them neutrally but with insight as much as we can. We are impartial but we’re not idiots.”

She added that interviewees cannot “say the sky is pink in the middle of a blue sky day” and go unchallenged.

In a BBC Breakfast broadcast last July, Naga said: “Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism.”

She added: “I’m not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean.”

Trump’s tweets had been written about US politicians Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. All four are US citizens, and three of them were born in America.

In a letter Lord Hall sent to BBC staff after he reversed the ruling that Naga had breached editorial guidelines, he said that “racism is racism, and the BBC is not impartial on the topic”.

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Naga later said things have been improving at the BBC, following some “very robust” conversations she’d had with senior figures.

She told the Guardian last month: “I think there was a process that needed to be gone through. I think lessons have been learned and things are improving.

“We’re learning all the time – the BBC learns, I learn, move on.”

She added: “I’m not there to give an opinion, but I’m equally not there to ignore a damaging opinion and to absorb that into our coverage.”

Last month, the BBC ruled that Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis had breached the corporation’s impartiality guidelines, after she opened the 26 May broadcast by saying that the prime minister’s aide Dominic Cummings had “broken the rules” amid controversy about his 260-mile lockdown trip to his parents’ house in Durham.  

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.