Meechan in an interview in December 2017
1987/1988 (age 30–31)
|Other names||Count Dankula|
|"M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi"|
|Political party||UK Independence Party|
Markus Meechan is a Scottish YouTuber, originally from Coatbridge. Meechan, known online as Count Dankula, received considerable press coverage when he posted a video of a dog raising an arm and reacting to the question 'gas the Jews?'. Meechan was subsequently arrested and convicted of being "grossly offensive" under the Communications Act 2003 in March 2018. This arrest generated controversy and discussions about free speech. In April 2018, Meechan was fined £800. Meechan has since stated he did not, and will not, pay the £800 fine with which he was charged. Meechan instead donated the £800 to the Glasgow Children's Hospital Charity.
In April 2016 Meechan posted a video of his girlfriend's pet pug Buddha titled "M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi". He says at the start of the video "My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi." In the video, the dog is seen performing a Nazi salute (when prompted by the command "Sieg Heil"), watching a speech by Adolf Hitler, and reacting to the phrase "Gas the Jews". It ends with images of Adolf Hitler and Buddha having a toothbrush moustache.
Meechan was subsequently arrested on suspicion of breaching the Communications Act 2003. On 19 March 2018 Meechan was convicted of breaching the act by Sheriff Derek O'Carroll at Airdrie Sheriff Court. The court ruled that Meechan's claim that the video was a joke intended for his girlfriend "lacked credibility" as Meechan's girlfriend did not subscribe to the YouTube channel to which the video was posted.
Following Meechan's conviction, British comedians Ricky Gervais and David Baddiel had made comments supporting Meechan. Others who opposed the prosecution of Meechan included Kenan Malik, Tim Blair, Douglas Murray, Tom Walker, Shappi Khorsandi and Stephen Fry. Swedish YouTube comedian PewDiePie also supported Meechan. Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg stated that the right to free expression must include the right to offend "otherwise the freedom is meaningless".
Graham Linehan, creator of the sitcom Father Ted, condemned Meechan, who responded by saying that Linehan's show also contained Nazi-related jokes. Meechan was scrutinised for embracing support from right-wing figures Alex Jones and Tommy Robinson, to which he replied "Imagine totally abandoning protecting human rights, just because someone you don't like is defending them too. Astounding."
UKIP Member of the European Parliament for Scotland, David Coburn, released a two-page statement condemning the ruling as "an embarrassment". Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, brought up Meechan's case in the House of Commons and said "Can we have a debate about freedom of speech in this country – something this country has long held dear and is in danger of throwing away needlessly?"
Despite public attention, Sheriff O'Carroll noted that there were only "very limited" submission from the defence and the prosecution on the matter of the law as it regards freedom of expression, and that because of this the trial was "concerned, ultimately, only with the narrow fact-based question of whether the Crown has proved beyond reasonable doubt that your using a public communications network on one day to post the video onto your video channel, constituted an offence contrary to section 127(1)(a) of the Communications Act 2003", and that the ruling sets no precedent.
On 23 April 2018, Meechan was sentenced to a fine of £800, with no jail time. Approximately 500 people gathered in London to protest for free speech when the sentence was handed out. Meechan started a GoFundMe campaign on 24 April 2018 to raise £100,000 for an appeal and reached his goal as of 25 April. In August 2018, Meechan announced that his request for an appeal had been denied by a member of the Sheriff Appeal Court who also accused Meechan's lawyer of contempt. The letter stated that the appeal was "not arguable" due to the nature of the "deeply unpleasant offence". Meechan stated that he plans to contest the matter with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.
On 6 May 2018, Meechan spoke at the Day For Freedom rally organized by Tommy Robinson. Luke Bailey, writing for the i newspaper, said Meechan's speech was focused on freedom of expression, in contrast to the other speakers in attendance who he claimed were "aggressively Islamophobic".
|Wikinews has related news: Scottish man sentenced over 'grossly offensive' joke on YouTube|
- Twitter Joke Trial
- Censorship in the United Kingdom
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