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Industry rallies behind ‘Tommy Robinson’ court reporter after rape threats

Stephanie_FinneganIndustry figures have rallied to support a journalist who received rape threats after successfully overturning an order barring journalists from revealing details of a far-right activist’s imprisonment for contempt of court.

HTFP reported earlier this week how Leeds Live court reporter Stephanie Finnegan challenged an order made at Leeds Crown Court barring any mention of court proceedings involving Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better know as Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League.

Stephanie, who also works for Leeds Live’s sister newspaper the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, has since revealed social media users have threatened to harm both her and her family “physically and sexually” after her resulting report on Yaxley-Lennon’s sentencing was published.

Examiner editor Wayne Ankers praised Stephanie’s response to the abuse in a post on Twitter.

He wrote: “The vile abuse Stephanie Finnegan is getting for doing her job for Leeds Live by getting restrictions lifted and then naming and giving the street address of a defendant is beyond belief.

“Excellent and brave regional journalism throughout, especially dealing with this reaction.”

Sun on Sunday political editor David Wooding added: “We should applaud this young journalist for doing her job in the face of appalling abuse.

“Another example of the Wild West social media running amok while politicians want to restrict trained professionals even more.”

Yaxley-Lennon was arrested outside Leeds Crown Court, where he was conducting a Facebook Live video viewed hundreds of thousands of times, last Friday on suspicion of a breach of the peace.

A court order is currently in place temporarily banning any reporting on a trial being heard at Leeds.

The 35-year-old was arrested and held in the court cells before being taken up to the courtroom to face said trial’s judge, who sentenced him to 13 months in prison that day for contempt of court.

Describing her experience since successfully challenging the order restricting reports on Yaxley-Lennon’s sentencing, Stephanie told HTFP: “I’ve received threats to harm me and members of my family, both physically and sexually.

“I’ve also gotten an overwhelming amount of support, including from the co-author of McNae’s, [Twitter account] the Secret Barrister and [Daily Mirror associate editor] Kevin Maguire as well as interviews on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and BBC Asian Network, which I think takes precedence over the abuse.

“Honestly, that’s the only thing in all of this that has me on the verge on tears.

“I’d like to all my Leeds Live colleagues for supporting me during this. There’s no I in team and I’m really glad that we’re putting Leeds on the map together.”

4 comments

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  • June 1, 2018 at 1:28 pm
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    David Wooding’s comment hits the nail on the head: “Another example of the Wild West social media running amok while politicians want to restrict trained professionals even more.”

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  • June 1, 2018 at 2:58 pm
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    Social media is surely the new Dodge City.
    A pretty-near lawless platform where cowardly inadequates can make vile threats without much fear of comeback. Ironically, for all its army of sickos, it is a media embraced greedily by the media.
    Well done Stephanie and try not to let the sad trolls who have no value to humankind get to you.

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  • June 2, 2018 at 9:23 am
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    Disgraceful that the court put a gagging order in the first place. Disgraceful that she has been treated like this when she was doing her job and, from the sound of it, doing it very well.

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  • June 4, 2018 at 3:20 pm
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    Well done Stephanie, standing in the face of bullying to do something in the public interest is something the very best journalists aspire to and you’ve carried it off with aplomb, anyone who cares not just about this industry but about a better society – will be very proud of you.

    Have to echo what people have said about social media too. Comments under my stories used to really get me down at times, truly vile from what were no doubt very cowardly people who wouldn’t even share their real faces or names while I was up there for all to take aim at, very frustrating.

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