BBC and Press Association journalists were targeted for verbal abuse and “manhandled” by supporters of Tommy Robinson outside the Old Bailey in London yesterday, it has been claimed.
Supporters of the English Defence League founder, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, singled out journalists – particularly those they believed were with the BBC – outside court after his latest contempt hearing.
Two judges gave the go ahead for fresh contempt of court proceedings to be brought against Robinson, who faces an allegation that he filmed defendants in a criminal trial and broadcast the footage on social media.
Journalists were asked which organisation they worked for and whether they produced “fake news”, while one individual allegedly tried to drag a PA video journalist to the ground by their bag.
A PA spokesperson said one of the agency’s video journalists was “verbally abused and manhandled”, but that they continued filming as Robinson left the court.
PA editor-in chief Pete Clifton said: “We strongly condemn any attempts to stop our journalists going about their legitimate business.
“We are proud of our reputation for fast, fair and accurate reporting whatever the circumstances, and we won’t be distracted from that mission.”
Hundreds of Robinson’s supporters gathered outside the court in the hours before the case was due to be heard and their numbers grew in the build-up.
A counter-demonstration of around 100 people, organised by the Stand Up To Racism group, also arrived ahead of the hearing.
Speaking after the ruling, Robinson berated “the fake news media” he claimed had misreported proceedings and accused journalists of “hounding” him as he arrived at court.
As he was speaking, a cameraman was identified by members of the crowd as working for the BBC and had to be ushered away by a colleague, PA reported.
BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani, who was present at the Old Bailey, said on Twitter today: “This is what is going on when we try to do our job reporting this important court case.
“Lies are spread on social media about reporters at the Old Bailey. We and our colleagues then face abuse and – as you can see for yourself – worse.”
In October, supporters of Robinson chanted “scum” at journalists outside the Old Bailey as he called the media “the enemy of the people” in an attack on the free press.
Robinson was jailed for 13 months in May last year after he filmed people involved in a criminal trial at Leeds Crown Court and broadcast the footage on social media.
But a contempt finding made against him was quashed by the Court of Appeal in August and he was freed from prison after serving two months of his sentence.
The case was then referred back to the Attorney General, who announced in March that it was in the public interest to bring fresh proceedings against Robinson.
The 36-year-old, from Luton, could be sent back to jail if he is again found in contempt, which carries a maximum sentence of two years.
Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire