Football’s Gary Lineker kicked by BBC over refugee policy tweets | Human Rights News

Lineker was sacked as presenter of the BBC’s Match of the Day program after criticizing the UK government’s policy on asylum seekers.

Former England captain Gary Lineker has been temporarily sacked as presenter of the BBC’s flagship Match of the Day football program following his criticism of the UK government’s new policy on towards asylum seekers.

The BBC’s withdrawal of Lineker from the show – a national institution in the UK broadcast since the 1960s – marks an extraordinary development and was followed by an outpouring of public support for Lineker and many of his followers. colleagues announcing that they wouldn’t appear on the show without him.

In a Twitter post on Tuesday to his 8.7 million followers, Lineker – one of England’s biggest football players and now one of the UK’s most influential media personalities – said the language used by members of the British government towards asylum seekers was similar to that used in Nazi Germany.

“The BBC have decided that he will stand down from presenting ‘Match of the Day’,” the BBC said on Friday evening, “until we have a clear and agreed position on his use of social media.”

“We have never said that Gary should be an opinionless zone, or that he cannot have an opinion on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should refrain from taking sides on political issues or political controversies,” the BBC said.

Conservative Party MPs had called on the BBC to discipline Lineker after he tweeted that the government’s plan to detain and deport asylum seekers arriving by boat was ‘an immeasurably cruel policy directed against the most vulnerable in a language no different from that used by Germany in the 1930s”.

“There is no massive influx. We welcome far fewer refugees than other major European countries,” he wrote.

The government called Lineker’s Nazi comparison inappropriate and unacceptable while some members of parliament said he should be sacked.

Lineker has yet to comment officially on his temporary dismissal, although one of his former BBC colleagues – Dan Walker – said he had been in contact with Lineker and asked “if he back down or if the BBC told him to back down”. back”.

Walker said Lineker replied that the BBC “told me I had to take a step back”.

“So Gary Lineker wants to keep presenting ‘Match Of The Day’ and isn’t apologizing for what he said,” Walker said on Channel 5, where he works, “but he said it was a BBC’s decision to force him not to present the program at this time”.

In solidarity with Lineker’s position, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright – former England players who work as pundits on Match of the Day – said on Twitter that they would not appear on the program this weekend.

The BBC said it viewed Lineker’s “recent social media activity as a breach of our guidelines”, adding that he should avoid taking sides on political issues.

Funded by a license fee paid by all households with a television, the BBC has a duty to be impartial and journalists are not allowed to express political opinions.

But as a freelancer who doesn’t work in news or current affairs, Lineker isn’t bound by the same rules and he often delves into politics and human rights issues with his tweets.

The BBC’s neutrality has recently come under scrutiny following revelations that its chairman, Richard Sharp – a Conservative Party donor – helped arrange a loan for the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in 2021, weeks before his appointment to the BBC post on the recommendation of the government.

Support for Lineker grew on social media on Friday night and questions were raised about the BBC’s impartiality and its inaction on other figures who had taken public positions on political issues.

“Stop the Boats”

The Conservative government has been criticized for its plans to bar asylum claims from people arriving on British shores by boat and transfer them elsewhere, such as to Rwanda.

Human rights groups and the United Nations have said the policy, called ‘stop the boats’, would make the UK an international outlaw under European and UN conventions on protections afforded to asylum seekers.

The opposition Labor Party said the BBC’s removal of “Gary Lineker is an attack on free speech in the face of political pressure”.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the BBC’s decision “indefensible”.

After several of his colleagues, such as former football players Alex Scott, Jermaine Jenas and Micah Richards, said they would not want to work on Match of the Day because of Lineker’s treatment, the BBC decided on the format. of the show, which airs on Saturdays.

“Some of our experts have said they do not wish to appear on the show while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary,” the BBC said in its statement on Friday.

“We understand their position and have decided that the program will focus on match action without studio presentation or expertise,” he said.

Lineker, 62, was a household name in the UK long before he became a smooth and capable presenter of sports on the BBC and other broadcasters. He was top scorer at the 1986 World Cup and finished his international career with 48 goals in 80 appearances for England.

His club career included spells at Barcelona, ​​Tottenham, Everton and Leicester.

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