Feature photo Getty Images
By Shirley Edwards
(These are my views as a woman living in England, on how the culture and spirit of my country has changed over 50 years. Why the country does not feel protected or strong any more, how it has lost, and is losing it values and decency, and how we are daily losing our free speech).
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King.
A Whistling Kettle
With the sentencing of freelance reporter and activist Tommy Robinson, on the 11th July, now reported to be serving 9 months imprisonment, and who is currently being detained in high security Belmarsh Prison, on a possible civil matter; one can only wonder if it was the harsh and extreme hatred which had been continuously directed towards him prior to his sentencing which may have in some way possibly influenced the harsh and extreme outcome of his case?
Aside from openly reporting every alias he has ever used, and also gleefully reporting every single crime or slight mis-demeanour that he has ever been accused or charged for, our judicial system appears to have come down excessively heavy upon a man whose crime was to report and live stream a sex grooming gang who were attending court for sentencing.
The mainstream media and also the social media have been awash with some of the most hateful and ugly statements you will ever see against a man who was waiting to go to court. Do the perpetrators of such venomous attacks see their very own hypocrisy when they exercise their own right to free-speech to attack this man and wish him the very worst of ills before he has even been sentenced?
The Pot Calling the Kettle Black
One of the main gripes directed at Tommy Robinson is that he is not a ‘trained’ journalist, and cannot contest that he is being imprisoned for journalism. Indeed, they are correct, he is not trained so to speak; but whilst many journalists almost always portray an identical and very one sided account on how they perceive Tommy Robinson or his supporters to be, they seem to be inept in not seeing just how far the British public as a whole no longer respect or trust the profession of journalism, and why the rise in alternative news media has now become a more reliable source of information for some people in contrast to some of the news the public is professionally fed.
Another gripe which has been used about the interference of Tommy Robinson’s reporting, but this time in relation to the law, is that every person should be due to a ‘fair’ trial, and that everyone is perceived innocent unless proven to be guilty. It has been stated that his live streaming outside the court could have influenced the sentencing, but in this case it is reported that he only gave out information that he believed was already in the public domain.
In relation to reporting however, our newspapers often get it wrong in accusing, naming and blaming beforehand innocent suspects in order to sell a story. Consider:
In December 2018, a Sussex couple were wrongly accused and questioned for 36 hours by Sussex police for flying a drone over Gatwick Airport and halting flights for thousands of passengers. Within hours of being taken for questioning, many newspapers were printing their pictures and one newspaper labelled them the ‘morons who ruined Christmas’.
This is not professional journalism.
In the summer of 2016, pop artist Cliff Richard was cleared of historical sex assault allegations after an investigation by South Yorkshire police. The police later apologised to him for the “initial handling of the media interest” after the BBC were tipped off about a raid upon his home, and it was broadcast ‘live’ from a helicopter by the BBC.
Cliff Richard later successfully fined the BBC for their coverage based on mere ‘accusations’ and believes some ‘privacy’ should be awarded to those who are accused of such crimes until someone is charged, found guilty and sentenced. He is currently backing a campaign group called FAIR (Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform) which calls for anonymity for those suspected of sexual offences until they are actually charged.
You can listen to his statement about the false allegations made against him, and how the media coverage affected his life here:
In his article in the Guardian, Professor of Journalism, Roy Greenslade writes on how the BBC should appeal against the ruling made in favour of the privacy of Cliff Richard, made by Mr Justice Mann, indicating that this case now states a precedent with worrying implications for press freedom. He states in his article:
“It suggests that reporting the identity of anyone whose home is raided, or who is known to be under police investigation prior to being arrested or charged, amounts to an intrusion into their privacy. It means that Mann has broken new legal ground by rebalancing the two articles in the European convention on human rights that deal with respect for private life and freedom of expression. He has decided that article 8, the right to privacy, now trumps article 10, the public’s right to know”.
You can read the full article here. In my opinion, the article offers an interesting and thoughtful insight on how freedom of press operates and how social media now contributes in making our society one of the least secretive places in history. However, false accusation is a worrying trend, and the resulting consequences can have devastating effects.
Contempt of court cases resulting in imprisonment have in British history been very few in number, but we do hear of many fines being imposed upon newspapers who have been accused of influencing or interrupting court cases.
In 2012, a journalist for the Spectator magazine was accused of being let off for almost causing the Stephen Lawrence case to collapse when an article was published which could have jeopardized the trial of the two men accused of murder. In this instance the magazine was fined and not the journalist.
In 2012, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror were fined for contempt of court and fined £10,000 each with costs of £25,000 each for their coverage of Levi Bellfield’s (now known as Yusuf Rahim) conviction for the murder of Milly Dowler.
In 2011, it is reported the Daily Mirror was fined £50,000 and the Sun newspaper £18,000 for articles on the arrest of Christopher Jefferies who was released without charge for the Joanna Yates murder case when another man was found guilty of her murder.
The harsh treatment being directed towards Tommy Robinson evidently appears to be out of context in relation to the equally serious offences above. Why is he hated so much?
Blowing off some Steam
The very vocal supporters of Tommy Robinson understandably feel frustrated and demonstrative towards the outcome of his sentencing, and like many other people across the country can only surmise and wonder why the British press are rarely supportive towards him in light of their own continuous misdemeanours, and why he has received in his words, a death sentence in relation to being put in a prison which has a high proportion of Islamic prisoners.
Unfortunately, it could be concluded that it is the failure of our country, the police force, our judicial system and our government which has made Tommy Robinson into the hero and martyr which people who dislike him complain about. No amount of rationale by professional experts, who in some cases are exhibiting a class snobbery, is now able to justify the treatment against him.
He has stepped outside the box and spoken up for the silenced in the same way that the Brexit party spoke up for the majority of knowledgeable and insightful people in the UK who felt betrayed by our government.
There is an awakening in the UK through social media that is uniting the voices which are not being listened to. They are hungry for the likes of Tommy Robinson, regardless of his background, who in some way is demonstrating a certain fearlessness in opposition to a silent fear which is bubbling below the surface of the UK.
The battle everywhere appears to be between an uncomfortable truth, and a force of dictatorship, which is taking an immoral high ground and coming down excessively heavy on those who dare to expose some reasonable although uncomfortable truth for consideration, by labelling them, discrediting them and isolating them. It is the reason we must ultimately find our silenced voices and always speak up and be fully aware of what is happening in the UK and across the world today.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King
© 2019 Shirley Edwards, All Rights Reserved, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org