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The ruling from the corporation’s executive complaints unit (ECU) comes at a sensitive time for BBC journalists who have just been criticised for their growing use of social media by new boss Tim Davie. The ECU investigation was launched when a furious reader contacted the BBC to complain that the use of the word “delusional” was inappropriate. The reader suggested the tweet showed Ms Adler was biased on matters concerning the EU.
This particular tweet in our view went beyond the guidelines’ licence for ‘professional judgements
BBC executive complaints unit
The experienced journalist, who has been BBC Europe Editor since 2014, posted the tweet on April 28 in response to remarks Mr Gove made to the Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union.
He had told MPs: “I think the COVID crisis, in some respects, should concentrate the minds of EU negotiators, enforcing the vital importance of coming to a conclusion.”
Ms Adler took to social media to comment on Mr Gove’s argument in a series of tweets, the first of which said: “Am not first to comment on this today but below observation by Michael Gove that coronavirus will focus EU minds on post Brexit trade deal is delusional.
“It distracts EU leaders all the more from something which was not top of in-tray even before COVID-19.”
The BBC executive complaints unit (ECU) said Ms Adler’s jobs was to offer audiences informed analysis on long-running stories such as Brexit and had done so in her tweets.
But it accepted she had cross a line when she described the minister as “delusional”.
In its ruling, the ECU said: “The word ‘delusional’, however, was more a term of evaluation than of objective description (outside a psychiatric context) and, when applied to a statement, was necessarily to some extent an adverse reflection on the person making it.
“To that extent this particular tweet in our view went beyond the guidelines’ licence for ‘professional judgements, rooted in evidence’, and we upheld this aspect of the complaint.”
The ECU said the complaint against Ms Ader was partly upheld and its findings reported to the Board of BBC News and discussed with the relevant editorial management.
The ruling was published as Mr Davie launched a crackdown on staff posting their views on social media in a move to restore the view of the BBC as impartial.
The new director-general said the BBC had to focus on impartiality to address accusations of bias from politicians on both sides of the political divide.
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He told staff: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.
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“We urgently need to champion and recommit to impartiality.
“In the age of fake news, social media campaigns, echo chambers of opinion, and noisy partisan media outlets, this, surely, is our time.”
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