A BBC presenter has been slammed for chasing and confronting shoppers who were not wearing face masks in a petrol station.
Stephen Nolan was accused of trying to "criminalise" people for not wearing masks in Belfast during his Nolan Live TV segment last night.
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The segment, which was broadcast on Wednesday evening, showed the presenter standing in front of a petrol station while approaching people who weren't wearing face coverings.
Some laughed it off while others said they did not wish to comment and others swore at the broadcaster.
Several people tried to walk away, but Mr Nolan was filmed following them in a bid to get an answer.
Blogger Jamie Bryson, who is a regular contributor on the Nolan Live show, said the presenter was "punching down, trying to coerce the 'little people' on behalf of the powerful".
He added: "It’s not often I disagree with Stephen Nolan- but he is taking on a ‘policing’ role, with the threat of public shaming used as a tool of coercion."
Nolan defended his actions and, responding directly to Bryson's message, tweeted: "If people break the law, they are criminalising themselves.
"And as for little people – there is none more little than a vulnerable person, helpless because they are surrounded by people who don’t give a damn about their safety.
"This is about the community protecting each other. Never will so many citizens have the power to protect life."
Viewers slammed the presenter on Twitter, with one person writing: "Disgraceful, bullying and demonising of a private citizen. How would Nolan like that done to him?"
Another added: "Classic behaviour of a bully."
It has been mandatory to wear face coverings in certain indoor settings in Northern Ireland since August 10 – including in shops or shopping centres and on public transport.
Some people may, however, be exempt for medical reasons.
Our programme reflected differing views on this subject, including some that were critical of the approach that we had taken in highlighting non-compliance with the Executive’s regulations. Filming took place openly and provided everyone featured with an opportunity to explain their position.
Mr Nolan said that when members of the public told him they were exempt, he walked away.
He said he only pursued those that did not give a reason for entering the shop without a mask.
The BBC backed his reporting, saying there was a "significant public interest" in the matter and his programme reflected differing views.
And speaking on his BBC Radio Ulster show this morning, Mr Nolan said: "Last night on Nolan Live we showed what happened when I stood outside a petrol station for just over an hour.
"There were many people not wearing a mask inside the petrol station shop and who were therefore putting other people around them at potential risk and I wanted to know why."
The coronavirus death toll in Northern Ireland now stands at 586 people, and the total number of cases diagnosed since the outbreak at 16,187.
A spokesperson for BBC NI said: “We think that compliance with Covid-19 regulations and their role in helping to limit the transmission of Coronavirus is a matter of significant public interest.
"We note the views of the health minister and his advisors on the importance of face coverings and also the exemptions that exist for some people.
"Our programme reflected differing views on this subject, including some that were critical of the approach that we had taken in highlighting non-compliance with the Executive’s regulations. Filming took place openly and provided everyone featured with an opportunity to explain their position.”
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