Sunday, 17 April 2011

#TwitterJokeTrial - Comedians Join Forces for Paul Chambers

Remember hearing about the case of Paul Chambers and his controversial 'tweet' around May last year? If not, lets briefly remind ourselves of what happened.

Chambers was found guilty under the Terrorism Act of sending a menacing communication via Twitter, stating he was going to 'blow up' an airport after hearing his flight had been cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Paul's original tweet said: 

"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, or I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" 

The ranters tweet about Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster, meant he was required to pay a fine of £385 and £600 costs after being found guilty in a magistrates court. As the 27-year-old accountant continued to fight his corner, he racked up over £2,000 in legal costs.

 Stephen Fry has over 2.4 million followers on Twitter

Stephen Fry, an individual who has confessed his love for the social networking site many times in the past, was said to be 'outraged' by the conviction. Chambers had stated clearly his post was meant in a light-hearted manner, yet this wasn't a good enough excuse in the eyes of the law.

In an attempt to raise money for Mr Chamber's appeal fees, Fry himself and several other high-profile comedians came together to perform an exclusive gig at the Bloomsbury Theatre on 15th April. Among those taking part were Graham Linehan ('Father Ted' writer), Katy Brand and popular entertainer Al Murray. Fry took to the stage and made his views clear, saying: "This (verdict) must not be allowed to stand in law."

It doesn't end there though. Fry went on to add he would be 'prepared to go to prison' to support Mr Chambers, even showing a willingness to republish the original joke and face court himself if needed. Members of the public have also shown their anger at the outcome of the case, re posting Mr Chamber's original 'tweet' onto their own profile pages in protest.

Clearly, there's an underlying theme of oppression here. On a personal note, I think Graham Linehan summed up the importance of protecting Twitter and freedom of speech online beautifully when he said: "We've got this incredible tool and we should fight any attempt to take it out of our hands."

It is likely Chamber's appeal will go before the High Court later this year.


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