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NUJ general secretary calls on coroner to allow blogger into court

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called upon the Isle of Wight coroner to allow a banned blogger into his court.

As we reported yesterday, Simon Perry of the VentnorBlog – a site that has been publishing local news for over four years – was refused entry, both as a journalist or a member of the public, to the Isle of Wight coroner’s court on Tuesday (23 February).  Perry has been a member of the NUJ for over nine years.

While parts of a small number of inquests may be held in private for reasons of national security, in this instance the hearing was public – and the local newspaper journalist was allowed to stay.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has written to the Isle of Wight coroner’s office expressing “grave concern” at the decision to ban Simon Perry, Journalism.co.uk has learned.

“The principle of open justice is vital to any democracy,” said Jeremy Dear. “Any journalist will tell you that the right of the public to know what happens in a coroner’s court is fundamental to a free society.

“I’m glad that Simon Perry regards this serious incident as a matter for his union, the NUJ. We will certainly pursue the issue vigorously.”

Over nine years of NUJ membership “would surely point to me not being fly by night,” Perry told Journalism.co.uk yesterday.

When Journalism.co.uk contacted the coroner’s court yesterday, the official did not wish to comment, but confirmed that the Coroner had made a statement once VentnorBlog had left the room.

The Ministry of Justice guide to coroner and inquests says (available via this link):

All inquests must be held in public in accordance with the principle of open justice, and so members of the public and journalists have the right to, and indeed may, attend (although parts of a very small number of inquests may be held in private for national security reasons). Whether journalists attend a particular inquest – and whether they report on it – is a matter for them. If any such report is fair and accurate it cannot be used to sue for defamation.

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