In my latest Spectator column I’ve written about Graham Phillips, the video blogger based in Donbas who‘s been sanctioned by the British Government. I think he‘s an unsavoury character and may be guilty of breaching the Geneva Conventions by interviewing prisoners-of-war for propaganda purposes. Nevertheless, for the U.K. Government to punish him without trial because he’s sided with the enemy of one of our allies is wrong.
According to the Foreign Office, the reason for sanctioning Phillips isn’t because he’s guilty of a crime, but because he “has produced and published media content that supports and promotes actions and policies which destabilise Ukraine and undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or independence of Ukraine”. That may be true, but why is that a reason to punish him without trial? If Britain was at war with Russia, that would be one thing – some civil liberties need to be suspended during wartime. But we are not.
The problem with this rationale is that it could easily be applied to another video-blogger who is a thorn in the side of one of our allies – Saudi Arabia, for instance – making it a sinister precedent. Indeed, had Corbyn won the last general election and frozen the assets of a dubious journalist taking sides against a communist country he had declared an ally, such as Cuba, we’d be justifiably outraged.
I think those of us who care about free speech need to hold our noses and condemn this decision. If the government thinks Phillips is guilty of a crime, then it should issue an international arrest warrant and bring him to justice. But until he has been convicted in court, he should not be penalised by the state. To punish him without due process is a breach of one of the most sacrosanct principles of English common law, as set out in Magna Carta. If we don’t challenge this decision, unappealing though Phillips may be, any one of us could be next.
Worth reading in full.
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