10/08/2019 11:37 BST | Updated 10/08/2019 11:42 BST

Russian Foreign Ministry Defends 'Journalist' Tommy Robinson, Twitter Erupts In Irony Overload

Labour MP David Lammy said Robinson “is not a journalist” but “he is a dangerous bigoted thug”.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has raised a few eyebrows after describing far-right activist Tommy Robinson as a “journalist” and pledging to monitor his time in jail from the “perspective of... human rights standards”.

The English Defence League (EDL) founder, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was jailed last month for a second time over a video he broadcast on Facebook featuring defendants in a criminal trial in breach of a reporting ban.

Robinson was found guilty of being in contempt of court, an offence trained journalists are intimately familiar with due to the possibility of unfairly influencing trials and possibly causing them to collapse. 

A tweet on Friday quoting Russia’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said: “We will continue to closely monitor this case, mainly from the perspective of #Britain’s declared commitment to the immutability of high human rights standards.”

The tweet provoked a flurry of responses, with Labour MP David Lammy saying Robinson “is not a journalist” adding “he is a dangerous bigoted thug”.

Others such as writer Will Black highlighted Russia’s own human rights record.

Russian journalists who work outside the state-approved broadcast system regularly face intimidation, threats and a significant number have been murdered.

In the most recent case, three reporters were killed in the Central African Republic while investigating a company with links to the Kremlin.

Last weekend a march in support of Robinson was allowed in London under the UK’s right to peaceful protest which expressly guaranteed under European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

At the same time, 800 people were being arrested in Moscow during a protest calling for free and fair elections.

One couple even faces losing custody of their one-year-old son.

Robinson was found in contempt in three respects when he filmed men accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streamed the footage on Facebook, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.

Dame Victoria and Justice Warby concluded he committed contempt by breaching the reporting restriction imposed on the trial, by live-streaming the video from outside the public entrance to the court and by “aggressively confronting and filming” some of the defendants.

Giving reasons for their findings on Tuesday, Dame Victoria said Robinson encouraged “vigilante action” in the video, which lasted an hour-and-a-half and was viewed online 250,000 times on the morning of the broadcast.

She said the court took into consideration his 11 previous convictions, including for offences of violence, fraud and disobeying court orders, as well as the effect on him of his previous time in jail, his mental health and the impact of his incarceration on his family.