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Reporters Committee statement on arrest warrants for journalists reporting on Liberty University

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  1. Newsgathering
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Update: On May 15, a local prosecutor in Virginia issued a press release announcing that she would not pursue criminal trespassing charges brought by Liberty University against journalists from The New York Times and ProPublica.

On April 8, it was reported that arrest warrants had been issued for journalists from The New York Times and ProPublica after both outlets published articles about Liberty University’s decision to partially reopen its campus amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Katie Townsend, legal director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, made the following statement:

“These arrest warrants appear to be intended to harass journalists who were simply, and rightly, doing their jobs — reporting on the impact of Liberty University’s decision to partially reopen during a pandemic — and to intimidate other reporters from doing the same type of reporting. People across the country are relying on the news media for accurate information about the coronavirus and how institutions are responding to it. Journalists should not face retaliation or threats of criminal penalties for fulfilling that responsibility.”

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.

Photo by Taber Andrew Bain

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