WASHINGTON, April 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Following is a statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the misdemeanor trespassing conviction of North Carolina journalists Matilda Bliss and Veronica Coit. Bliss and Coit were charged with trespassing in connection with their coverage of the eviction of a homeless encampment on December 25, 2021, and were found guilty at a bench trial on Wednesday. They have appealed the ruling to a bench trial scheduled next month.
“Journalism is not a crime. We are disheartened and disappointed by Wednesday’s decision convicting Matilda Bliss and Veronica Coit of the citizen journalism news outlet The Asheville Blade on misdemeanor trespassing charges. Bliss and Coit were engaged in routine newsgathering, reporting on the clearing by local police of a homeless encampment, when they were arrested on December 25, 2021. Police body camera footage shows Bliss and Coit did not endanger anyone or obstruct any police activity. Bliss and Coit were arrested while reporting on a matter of public importance in their community.
Prosecuting and convicting journalists for doing their work weakens the ability of the United States to serve as a global leader on press freedom and freedom of expression. We are heartened to hear that Bliss and Coit are appealing this ruling to a jury trial and look forward to a favorable resolution of this case.”
CONTACT: Bill McCarren, 202-662-7534 for the National Press Club
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SOURCE National Press Club