It’s an interesting juxtaposition for Canada to be lecturing the world on the importance of a free press when, this week, Canadians learned the federal will be putting together an A-list of approved media outlets to serve as the basis for who gets to benefit from a fund of tax money meant to bolster news subscriptions.
The problem for Canadians is that this creates an economic imbalance between government-funded outlets, and those not on the dole. It also raises integrity questions about the quality of content emanating from outlets wishing to stay in the government’s good books–literally.
Update: Stripe has temporarily reinstated Tommy Robinson’s account, pending a two-week review.
The full letter from Tommy Robinson’s lawyer to Stripe is at the bottom of this post.
When Tommy Robinson left the Old Bailey on Tuesday, he wanted to focus on his campaign for the European Parliament. A decision two days later from a Silicon Valley tech giant may make that more difficult.
A New York law firm representing Robinson says two of the British candidate’s accounts with Stripe – an online payment processing company – were suspended, including one used exclusively by the VoteTommy election campaign.
“Stripe informed Tommy this week that two accounts connected with him…were terminated on the ground that his business violated the Stripe Services Agreement,” a letter from Ronald Coleman to Stripe’s general counsel says. “Tommy’s campaign and fundraising are entirely lawful under both UK and EU law. Tommy has complied with all legal requirements for registering as an official candidate and he will be on the ballet in the EU Parliament election on May 23rd.”
Stripe has issued no public statement about the suspension, though I’ve reached out to the company’s media relations office and will update this when I hear back.
Coleman goes on his letter to note that Stripe has not denied its services to any other candidate in the election, and that the suspension “is seriously hindering Tommy’s ability to participate in the democratic process.”
My longstanding belief is that companies should have the right to do business with whomever they’d like, and should not be compelled otherwise. This is not as cut-and-dried where elections are concerned.
Canadian election law, for example, requires that publishers allow all candidates the opportunity to purchase advertising if it will allow some to do so. A company terminating a relationship with one week until the election disadvantages Robinson’s campaign at what is often the most critical point for fundraising.
Imagine if, say, a candidate’s web host decided in the days before an election that it would take their website offline, and that website was the vehicle through which the campaign would email people about how and where to vote.
I won’t pretend to know the intricacies of European election law, but if Stripe had an issue with being the payment processor of Robinson’s campaign, it has had ample opportunities to make a decision to suspend prior to this point.
Tommy Robinson is headed back to court in July for a re-hearing of the contempt of court charge that wound him up in jail just one year ago.
The High Court, presided over by Lady Justice Sharp and Mr. Justice Warby, granted a request advanced by the United Kingdom’s Attorney General to have a fresh hearing on the contentious charge.
Much of the two-hour session was rooted in procedural matters, though a recurring theme in the argument advanced by the barrister representing the attorney general was that it’s in the “public interest” for this case to proceed.
He also stressed the potential for Robinson’s Facebook live stream to have influenced jurors given the reach of social media posts in relation to traditional broadcast means. He did this to lay the groundwork that the alleged infraction was a severe one, to defend against Robinson’s barrister’s position that proportionality needs to be taken into consideration.
Two days have been set aside for the hearing, in less than two months. The appearance actually takes place less than a week before I was planning to be in London to cover the press freedom summit being co-hosted by Canada and the United Kingdom (for which I need your help).
I’ll have a further analysis of the case and its implications in the days ahead.
Whatever you may think of Tommy Robinson, no one can argue he’s been given a fair shake by the media or the British government.
To be fair, he’s thumbed his nose at both quite a bit over the years, but due process is meant to be for everyone.
Everyone except him, that is.
An appellate court already found last summer his rights had been violated when a Leeds judge had Robinson arrested, charged, tried, convicted, sentenced and hauled off to jail in a matter of hours. When I was in London last October I overheard British mainstream media journalists conspiring to lie about Robinson and professing his guilt before the judge even entered the courtroom.
That judge, the most senior at the famous Old Bailey, said thanks to a statement provided by Robinson there was enough ambiguity about whether he was, in fact, guilty of contempt of court that the case should be referred to the Attorney General of the United Kingdom, Geoffrey Cox.
It was, and Cox ordered a new hearing, sending Robinson back to court on a charge for which he’s already served 10 weeks of a 13 month sentence that’s been tossed out.
On Tuesday, government will argue in a two-hour hearing that Robinson should be subjected to another contempt of court hearing. Robinson’s legal team will argue he shouldn’t.
Yes, I flew across the Atlantic for a two-hour procedural matter. I am grateful to have received a grant covering my flight and hotel costs, raised by Ezra Levant and The Rebel. I’m paying for everything else out of my own pocket. Though I’m happy to do so, as Robinson’s case really is about the procedure.
After all, it was a supposed procedural infraction that the initial Leeds judge said justified imprisoning Robinson in the first place. Covering, as an activist journalist, a case the mainstream media had been ignoring was his “crime.”
I’m here again because as the prosecution of Robinson mounts, so too do questions about the state of free speech and press freedom in Western nations.
Despite all this the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom are co-hosting a press freedom summit in London–where I am right now–in July. Last week I launched a crowdfunding campaign through True North to attend and cover the summit, being spearheaded by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
If you support independent voices fighting to stand up for these freedoms, please make a contribution of what you can afford, whether it’s a few dollars or a few hundred dollars.
I take no joy in needing to cover these things, but take comfort in knowing how many people there are who support the effort.