Norwegian Editorial Society Secretary General Arne Jensen has lashed out against the imprisonment of right-wing activist Tommy Robinson, who was arrested for reporting on "Muslim grooming gangs" in violation of a court order.
"The question is this: do we really think it is reasonable to sentence a human being to more than a year in prison for simply recording the sound and images in an open street, in connection with a public case of great public interest? In fact, should it be punishable at all?" Jensen wrote in an opinion piece in Nettavisen straightforwardly called "Free Tommy Robinson."
Jensen rued the fact that the debate about the imprisoned former English Defense League leader has evolved "along the axis of Islamophobia and Islamophilia." Nor should the debate be guided by sympathy or antipathy for Tommy Robinson personally, or his views or projects, Jensen argued.
In his opinion piece, Jensen cited UK expert Jan Erik Mustad of the University of Agder, who last week claimed that Robertson was trying to present himself as a martyr and argued that he couldn't be seen as victim since he promoted "populist views." According to Jensen, relativizing freedom of expression based on motives and strategies is a dangerous practice, as it ultimately undermined the principle.
"It's not the political correct, the harmless and the pleasant expressions that need protection first and foremost," Arne Jensen ventured. Jensen also suggested that the debate about Tommy Robinson should be steered by Voltaire's enlightenment-era principles, noting that the French philosopher and freethinker had said "although I deeply disagree with what you say I will until my death defend your right to do so."
Lastly, Jensen argued that Tommy Robinson would have most likely been convicted in Norway, although he would have gotten away with a fine of up to NOK 20,000 ($2,500). In conclusion, Jensen reiterated his call to "free Tommy Robinson."
Tommy Robinson, a prominent right-wing activist and the author of several books, was jailed for 13 months for live-streaming outside Canterbury Crown Court in violation of reporting restrictions on a trial involving 170 cases of rape and 29 men with foreign backgrounds. This was found to constitute "contempt of court."
Arne Jensen previously led the Norwegian Press Association and edited numerous local newspapers, such as Østlands Posten, Moss Avis, Sandefjord Blad and Dalane Tidende. He is also the author of several books on leadership, journalism and press ethics.