After protesting the construction of a Mosque in his area, 27-year-old Blair Cottrell of Australia posted a video of the demonstration to Facebook. He is now facing up to 6 months in jail for creating content that “may be offensive to Muslims.”
In 2015, Cottrell and some friends staged a mock beheading of a dummy in protest of the 2015 Parramatta shooting and subsequent plans to construct a mosque in Bendigo. He later uploaded footage of the event to Facebook.
They did not break windows. They did not assault people who do not share their views. No buildings were looted or set ablaze.
Yet, Cottrell is now facing four criminal charges for being “offensive.”
The most serious charge reads that Cottrell “on the grounds of religious belief or activity of another person or class of persons, namely Muslims, knowingly engaged in conduct being the participation in the making of a video with the intention of inciting serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons.”
Cottrell is the first in the nation to face this specific charge under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act of 2001. If convicted, he told Big League Politics that he believes this will be a major step towards destroying free speech.
The activist explained that “the charge specifically states that the offence was ‘participating in the making of the video’, so the action of the mock-beheading itself is not the issue, only sharing the video of it to Facebook.”
“This particular charge has never been used before in Australian history, so it’s a precedent case – meaning the state of Victoria is trying to set a new standard and legal precedent by convicting me. Basically, if they win it means they can forever use my case as a basis for charging and convicting anyone who says anything they don’t like in the future. It’s a big move toward speech-control in Australia,” Cottrell told Big League Politics.
Beyond the charges, Cottrell was also silenced by Facebook, who deleted his massive Facebook page, the United Patriots Front, as well as the personal pages of all admins. He stated that he was told this was done at the request of the Victoria Police Department.
“Facebook has since deleted my our Facebook page which had over 120k followers, and I was told by a ranking member of Victoria police that the shutdown of the page was the result of two government agencies putting pressure on Facebook to close it down, however I don’t have any actual evidence of that,” Cottrell said.
He added that, “after it was deleted I started up a public figure page named after myself to keep the following informed, it generated a following of just over 15k in three weeks before that was deleted too, in the same way.”
“Facebook has not given me any reason for why these pages were deleted, it simply deleted the pages and all accounts on the admin panels without explanation. The accounts are still not accessible. The original UPF page had over 20 personal accounts on the admin panel, all those accounts were deleted permanently along with the page,” Cottrell explained.
In a video posted to YouTube where Cottrell explained his charges, he noted that there have been multiple Antifa riots with significant violence and property damage in recent times — yet none of the militant protesters have faced charges, aside from one, for littering.
Out of the protests Cottrell discusses in the video, one specific incident stands out, as he is facing a charge of ‘defacement of property’ for accidentally spilling fake blood on a public sidewalk.
In November, protesters outside of parliament filled the entire fountain with blood in protest of refugee detention camps. Additionally, the Antifa demonstrators shut down Parliament as some stormed the building, some stood in the fountain, and others unfurled a banner reading “close the bloody camps now #justice4refugees” from the roof.
“I’m looking at 6 months jail for that, whereas Leftists can storm Parliament House, shut it down for a day, climb onto the roof and fill a million dollar fountain with red food dye without consequence,” Cottrell told Big League.
None of the vandals appear to have been charged with property destruction over the stunt — which was undoubtedly more expensive to clean up than Cottrell’s minor spill. Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon even brought the pro-refugee demonstrators chocolates and congratulated them on their protest after Parliament was halted.
“It’s obvious that at a government and institutional level there is a strong effort being made to excuse leftist violence and promote leftist ideology. In conjunction with this, Conservatives and Patriots in Australia are attacked, slandered, ridiculed and in my particular case, dragged through the courts with criminal charges for ‘offensive speech,'” Cottrell added. “All of this seems to happening in western nations world wide. It’s a relentless conspiracy and needs to be exposed as much as possible by anybody who still has the courage to tell the truth.”
When asked if his lawyers expect to beat the charge, Cottrell told Big League that “it’s new territory for any lawyer here in Victoria, so they can’t really say.”
Hearings in the case begin in September.
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Turkey Human Rights, Crackdown on Press Freedom Comes Under Renewed Scrutiny in Geneva
Last week, the UK-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR)and the Press Emblem Campaign held an information meeting in Geneva, to coincide with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Turkey over hate crimes, minority, and LGBT rights, and press freedoms with a specific focus on the nation’s crackdown on these rights during the failed 2016 coup and the emergency rule that followed during which the government allegedly used its security powers to arrest thousands of people who opposed it.
Turkey’s human rights record was last reviewed in 2015 during the UPR. This was the third time in 10 years that Turkey’s record has come under review
Diplomats, minister, prominent members of Turkish media and human rights defenders – including those who have been forced into exile – were present at the event. Also in attendance was former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice Ambassador Stephen Rapp. Louise Pyne Jones, head of research, International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) moderated the event. Two panels were held. The first was called “Press Freedom” and included Yavuz Baydar, editor-in-chief of Ahval; Evin Baris Altintas, journalist and blogger; and Massimo Frigo; senior Legal Advisor for International Commission for Jurists (ICJ). The second panel, “Human Rights Defenders,” included Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci; president of the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey; Nurcan Baysal, award-winning Turkish Human Rights Defender and Journalist; and Anne van Wezel, former co-chair EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee.
Following an attempted, and failed, “coup” against the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party in 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused many of his opponents and naysayers, including journalists who were critical of him and his government, of supporting terrorism and prosecuted many of them. Erdogan also suggested that the attempted coup was the work of exiled Imam Fethullah Gulen and his movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Turkey has asked for the United States to extradite Gulen. Gulen has been living in the United States in a self-imposed exile since 1999. Over 250 people died as a result of the failed coup attempt.
Soon after the coup, Turkey implemented a state of emergency (SOE) which it said: “was put into effect in order to ensure the continuity of effective implementation of the measures for the protection of the rights and freedoms of our citizens, democracy and the rule of law.” However, the AK Party’s critics have maintained that the AK Party used the umbrella of its broader emergency powers and continuously postponed ending that state of emergency, in an attempt to destroy its political opposition.
Many journalists were apprehended under this state of emergency until it was lifted on July 19, 2018. As such, for three straight years, and up until 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Turkey as the worst jailer of journalists in the world. According to Turkish, English, and Arabic-language news site Ahval, when China jailed 48 journalists to Turkey’s 47.
Nurcan Baysal, an award-winning Kurdish Human Rights Defender, Journalist, and contributor to Ahval, said she was even cautious with the words she used on the panel discussion for fear of punishment by the Turkish government. “We are censoring ourselves because of these fears,” Baysal said. “For example, before coming here I asked myself if I should use certain words, should I use the word invasion, or should I use the word war, because today in Turkey even to say war is forbidden,” she said. “Everything that I say has an effect on not only my life but of the lives of my children and family.”
Ahval editor in chief Yavuz Baydar said, “No state or power can decide who is a journalist, it is the domain for professional organizations and should always be separate from power.”
According to the IOHR, “In the previous UPR cycle of Turkey, the Turkish government officially supported 14 recommendations related to strengthening the legal framework on freedom of expression and 5 recommendations specifically related to bringing terrorism legislation in line with international human rights standards.
Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch recently said, “The huge number of journalists, politicians, and perceived government critics in prison and on trial flies in the face of the Turkish government’s public statements about the state of human rights in the country “Turkey’s disregard of human rights is a disservice to its citizens, who deserve to live with dignity and freedom.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run pro-government newspaper the Daily Sabah put out propaganda about the Erdogan government writing, “U.N. Human Rights Council highlighted Turkey’s achievements in the fields of judiciary, human rights and humanitarian causes on Tuesday during a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting in Geneva.”
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