The claim by former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson that his jailing for contempt of court is an attack on journalism is a dangerous distortion of the truth, says the Society of Editors.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was jailed at the Old Bailey for nine months today (July 11) after being found guilty previously of interfering with the trial of a sexual grooming gang at Leeds Crown Court. Robinson had broadcast footage from outside the court in breach of a court order banning all media coverage until the end of a series of linked trials.
At his sentencing Robinson claimed the sentence was an attack on journalism and wore a t-shirt with the words ‘Convicted of Journalism’ that also compared the UK to North Korea.
Reacting to his claims, Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray said that in reality Robinson had broken the law by ignoring the laws of contempt that any junior reporter working for a reputable news provider would be aware of.
“On the one level this underscores how it is the mainstream media and others that devote huge amounts of time and resources to training their journalists that can be relied upon to provide accurate and balanced reporting of the facts.
“While anyone can claim to be a journalist in this country, and there is no appetite nor should there be for the licensing of journalists in the UK, the mainstream British media adheres to the laws of the land, is correctly regulated and ensures its journalists are highly trained. I am not aware that Robinson has any formal training as a journalist, and to claim his trial and sentencing is an attack on journalism itself is a farce.”
But, Murray added, the claims would no doubt resonate with his supporters and also provide ammunition for those who wish to harm the UK media.
“Sadly there are people who wish to see the media in the UK emasculated and these sorts of claims are so obviously unfounded they provide ammunition to attack us with.
“Against a background where some politicians who should know better are constantly attacking the free media, Robinson’s actions and subsequent claims to represent journalism under attack are a dangerous distraction.
“There are sufficient real and potential threats to genuine journalism to contend with such as the Online Harms White Paper, the Age Appropriate rulings from the Information Commissioner’s Office and the still un-repealed Section 40 clause to the Crime and Courts Act 2013.”