Thursday, February 08, 2007


Josh Wolf who refused to cooperate with a grand jury investigation became the longest incarcerated journalist in modern American history on Tuesday.

Government prosecutors have demanded that Josh give them raw video, some of which he has posted on his Web site as well as testify about the protesters at a San Francisco demonstration seen on the tape.

Journalists, civil libertarians and politicians gathered to mark the occasion.

Reporters Without Borders has stated,

"The Wolf case has absolutely no bearing on national security, the argument used in other tussles between federal courts and journalists who refused to name their sources or surrender their files. Confirmed contempt of court orders against Wolf would mean that the independence of the press - which is based among other things on the right to professional secrecy – is more than ever in danger in the United States. Keeping Josh Wolf in jail would be tantamount to denying the role that the media is supposed to play in a democracy, one of questioning and criticizing. Congress must quickly debate and approve a federal shield law that would uphold the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources."

What follows is an article from Inside Bay Area. Next is a press release written by Sara Olson (who herself continues to sit behind bars in a California prison).

Journalist sets record for jail time
By Josh Richman, STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Freelance videographer and blogger Josh Wolf became a full-fledged media martyr Tuesday, surpassing the U.S. record for most time spent in jail by a journalist who refused to comply with a subpoena.
Tuesday was the 169th day that Wolf, 24, of San Francisco spent in a federal prison cell in Dublin after refusing to give a federal grand jury footage he shot of a 2005 political protest in San Francisco's Mission District. Journalists, civil libertarians and politicians gathered on the steps of City Hall to mark the occasion.

"Josh Wolf is in jail for every one of you out there who's holding a camera ... a notepad ... a microphone," said David Greene, executive director of the Oakland-based First Amendment Project. "This is not a selfish act, he has nothing to gain personally by being in jail. ... He's fighting for the press' right to be free."

"Surely any message the government wanted to send about the importance of complying with a subpoena has been sent," Greene added.

San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi decried "the thuggery of the federal government, the Bush Administration and Judge (William) Alsup" in this case, and blasted Mayor Gavin Newsom and other local politicos who've remained silent: "I'm angry as hell about this .... There should be a serious outcry that he's been in jail this long." Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Jake McGoldrick attended, too.

San Francisco Bay Guardian publisher and editor Bruce Brugmann proclaimed Wolf "a hero" and said he's never seen anything like this in his own decades in journalism. "Where are we? Are we in Bulgaria, or Korea?"

Julian Davis of the Free Josh Wolf Coalition said the support Wolf's cause has garnered proves "this is no fringe movement." Wolf is backed by state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, who'll soon introduce a resolution honoring and supporting Wolf; Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco; the Society of Professional Journalists; the American Civil Liberties Union; the National Press Club; Reporters Without Borders; the National Lawyers Guild; Media Alliance; The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America and others.

Wolf, who works full-time as outreach director for Peralta Community College District's cable television station in Oakland, attended and filmed a G-8 Summit protest July 8, 2005, in San Francisco's Mission District at which a police officer was seriously injured and someone might have tried to set a San Francisco police car afire.

Prosecutors say grand juries have broad power to probe whether a crime occurred: perhaps the attempted car arson — potentially a federal offense, they say, as San Francisco police get federal funding — or perhaps something else. There's no federal "shield law" protecting journalists from federal grand juries' demands.

Wolf and his supporters say the attempted car arson is a pretense, an end-run around California's strong shield law so the FBI can gather evidence for a San Francisco police investigation while fishing for information about protesters and chilling independent news gathering. Journalists mustn't be co-opted as a de facto arm of the law, they say.

The case also has raised questions about who is and isn't a journalist. In an age when almost anyone can write, record or film events and post it online, past delineations between professional and amateur reporters are blurred, particularly when it comes to questions of objectivity; Wolf clearly was among and supportive of the protesters on whom he reported.

Davis and coalition activist Andy Blue were in Washington last week lobbying staffers to lawmakers such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer; and others to intercede on Wolf's behalf and spur passage of a federal shield law. Davis said Tuesday there's been no word yet on whether the lawmakers will act.

Carlos Villareal, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild's San Francisco chapter, berated Alsup for "a stroke of absolute arrogance" in refusing Wolf's motion for release last week without holding a hearing. Wolf's lawyers had argued he might as well go free because he'll never comply with the subpoena no matter how long he's jailed; Alsup's one-paragraph order said Wolf's lawyers' talk of a possible compromise "reveals a realistic possibility that Mr. Wolf's confinement may be having its coercive effect."

Josh Wolf Becomes Longest Jailed Journalist in U.S. History
Tuesday February 6, 1:05 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Josh Wolf, named northern California's 2006 journalist of the year by Society of Professional Journalists, broke the record for the longest amount of time a reporter has spent in jail protecting his sources. Journalist and professional organizations are denouncing his continued imprisonment.

"The 169th day of Josh Wolf's incarceration marks another alarming milestone in the struggle for press freedom in post-9/11 America," said Linda Foley, president of The Newspaper Guild/CWA. "What was once a cherished constitutional mandate that journalists operate free from government interference increasingly has come under attack."

"Josh is fighting a brave battle that an increasing number of journalists in the U.S. are facing today," said Jerry Zremski, president of the National Press Club. "Chillingly, many journalists must battle to keep their reporting from becoming a tool that prosecutors can use to further their cases."

"Keeping Wolf in jail is absurd and cruel," said Lucie Morillon, Washington director at Reporters Without Borders. "It is a bad signal sent to the rest of the world. We would have expected a democratic country such as the United States to put the bar higher regarding press freedom."

"Josh should be protected by the California shield law, and this should never have become a federal case. He has neither broken the law, nor been convicted of a crime," said Sarah Olson, an independent journalist recently subpoenaed by the U.S. Army. "The Department of Justice should release Wolf from prison immediately."

The 24-year-old independent journalist sold his footage of a 2005 San Francisco demonstration to the nightly news. The broadcast attracted the attention of local and federal law enforcement agents who later served Wolf a federal subpoena requiring his unpublished video footage and testimony. When he refused to comply he was charged with contempt of court and incarcerated.

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