Protester pleads guilty to assaulting CBC camera operator

A Coquitlam, B.C., man has pleaded guilty to assaulting a CBC camera operator at a border protest against COVID-19 restrictions in 2022.

Vojislav Zmukic pleaded guilty to one count of assault at provincial court in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday morning.

He was charged after an incident on Feb. 19, 2022, near 8 Avenue and 176 Street in Surrey, around 1.5 kilometres north of the Pacific Highway border crossing, where several journalists reported being swarmed by crowds that had gathered to protest against COVID-19 measures.

Anger over vaccine mandates and other restrictions had set off protests across the country, including on the streets around Parliament Hill in Ottawa, at the Coutts border crossing in Alberta, and at the Surrey border crossing.

Surrey RCMP said at the time that police officers were looking into several incidents that occurred during a series of weekend protests at the border.

Vaccine mandate protesters blocked off the intersection of 8th Avenue and 176 Street, leading to the Pacific Highway border crossing in Surrey, B.C., for the second weekend in a row on Feb. 19, 2022.
Protesters blocked the intersection of 8 Avenue and 176 Street leading to the Pacific Highway border crossing in Surrey, B.C., in February 2022. (Janella Hamilton/CBC)

Chuck Thompson, the CBC's head of public affairs, said the corporation is aware of the significant challenges journalists face, especially in the field.

"Their safety and well-being remains a top priority of CBC News management and, more broadly, with the senior executive team," Thompson said in a statement.

"Best we can, CBC has taken important steps to ensure journalists can do their work with peace of mind."

Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, welcomed Tuesday's guilty plea.

"Hearing about the accused's guilty plea is an important moment of accountability and a positive step toward justice, in a time when the need to protect journalists — and our other democratic institutions — is a growing concern," Jolly said in a statement.

Zmukic's sentencing date will be determined on July 5.