Activist Tommy Robinson's Orwellian Imprisonment
British right-leaning activist Tommy Robinson has been arrested and reportedly sentenced to 13 months in jail on charges of contempt of court. His initial violation was filming and reporting on a British case of accused child grooming gang members when all media reporting before the sentencing had been banned by decree of the government.
Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the pseudonym “Tommy Robinson,” is considered “far right” by many of his fellow countrymen. An extremely vocal critic of the United Kingdom’s liberal immigration policy, he co-founded the English Defense League, a vehemently anti-Sharia organization. Various activist agencies and people, including a UK counter-terrorism police officer, have accused his rhetoric and hostility towards Islam of being a radicalizing force that contributes to terrorism. However, this standard is not applied to equally vocal critics of Christianity.
Robinson sought to cover what he saw as a growing trend of crimes and violence, particularly against children, and took video footage outside the court building of a highly contentious rape case. His Facebook Livestream was abruptly cut short when police officers arrested him on grounds of so-called “breach of peace.” According to an anonymous source who approached FOX News, Robinson had been sentenced to serve time in the Hull Prison, which is currently declining to answer the media’s questions concerning Robinson’s whereabouts, for contempt of court.
Last year, Robinson was arrested for a similar crime, attempting to video defendants outside a courthouse during a gang rape trial in Canterbury. His sentence was suspended, but he was warned that a repeat offense would lead to prison time, which the government has seemingly delivered on.
Such laws exist in the UK supposedly as not to bias the jury. The reasoning being that too much public fervor stirred up by the media would have an undue influence upon the jurors, and cause them to vote differently than if they were not exposed to media persuasion and merely confronted with both sides’ cases and evidence. Robinson’s case itself was put under media blackout by the UK Government for the same reason, but the gag order on his case was eventually removed a few days after news outlets The Independent and Leeds Live challenged it on grounds of it already being breached by their competitors.
Critics, however, state that such laws constitute suppression of the press and therefore free expression, and can be used to cover up abuses of the system, even if the gag orders are only temporary and can be legally challenged as seen in Robinson’s case. Right-wing political commentators, in particular, were quick to point out how such power, the ability to suppress media coverage of trials for any amount of time, can open the door to the unjust punishment of political dissidents. Even those who adamantly disagree with Robinson’s activism and beliefs generally believe he has a right to state them nonetheless.
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