Man, 50, denies racially abusing BBC reporter Sima Kotecha in street

Man, 50, denies threat charge in court after BBC news reporter Sima Kotecha ‘was racially abused in the street and forced to cancel her live broadcast’

  • Russell Rawlingson, 50, is accused of abusing BBC reporter Sima Kotecha
  • Alleged incident took place in Leicester city centre as she prepared a broadcast
  • Ms Kotecha was preparing a live piece about Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday
  • At Leicester Magistrates’ Court today Rawlingson, of Glenfield Road, Leicester, pleaded not guilty to a count of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour

A man accused of abusing a BBC reporter as she prepared a live broadcast has today appeared in court. 

Russell Rawlingson, 50, is accused of causing racially aggravated alarm or distress to journalist Sima Kotecha following an incident in Leicester city centre.  

The BBC correspondent, 40, said she and her team were subjected to ‘racist and abusive behaviour’ on Sunday while preparing to broadcast from Leicester city centre.

The segment, which was due to broadcast reaction from the city to Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation, was cancelled following the alleged abusive comments.  

Russell Rawlingson, 50, is accused of causing alarm or distress to journalist Sima Kotecha (pictured) following an incident in Leicester city centre

Appearing at Leicester Magistrates’ Court (pictured), via video link, Rawlingson, of Glenfield Road, Leicester, was granted conditional bail until a pre-trial hearing

The alleged incident was later reported to police.

Appearing at Leicester Magistrates’ Court, via video link, Rawlingson, of Glenfield Road, Leicester, denied one count of using racially aggravated threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm and distress.

He was granted conditional bail until a pre-trial hearing.

That hearing will be held at a Leicester Crown Court on June 15. 

Ms Kotecha, who has in the past reported from Helmand Province during the Afghanistan conflict and recently from Rome at the height of Italy’s coronavirus crisis, took to the Twitter to vent her anger over the alleged incident on Sunday night.

The journalist, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, said: ‘Apologies – but a man shouting terrible things at me has ruined it for everyone. I’m afraid not going to make it on the special programme.’

In a follow-up Tweet, she said: ‘Apologies to our guests who we had to send home without putting on air after myself and team were subjected to racist and abusive behaviour – sad obstruction of reporting of a national crisis.’

She added: ‘Yes I’m furious.’

Ms Kotecha received hundreds of messages of support, including from Channel 4 journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Location, Location, Location star Kirstie Allsopp. 

The BBC Press Team has also tweeted in support of Ms Kotecha.

In a statement, on Twitter, they said: ‘While preparing to broadcast, our reporter, her production team and guests were subjected to racist and abusive behaviour.

‘We are appalled by what happened and will be reporting the incident to the police. We will not tolerate racism or abuse of our staff.’ 

Ms Kotecha was born and raised in Basingstoke, Hampshire, and later studied journalism at Goldsmiths University in London.

She began her career in local BBC radio 2003 and has since worked on some of the BBC’s biggest shows, including Panorama, Radio 4’s Today Programme and BBC News.

During her career, Ms Kotecha has reported from Helmand Province during the Afghanistan war, covered the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010, as well as from Lebanon during the Syrian refugee crisis.

Yesterday’s alleged incident took place in Leicester, which is one of the UK’s most multicultural cities.

A 2011 census showed less than half of the city’s population identify as ‘White British’.

The city has one of the largest Asian populations in the UK and is also home to significant African, Caribbean and Eastern European communities.

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