can’t see the forest

US vs. Josh Wolf Scheduled for Magistrate Mediation Today

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Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Journalism is literature in a hurry.
—Matthew Arnold

Josh Wolf

For refusing to obey a federal subpoena, California video blogger and freelance journalist Josh Wolf became, as of February 21, 2007, the longest-incarcerated journalist in United States history. To my knowledge, he is also the first U.S. citizen federally convicted for an offense related to a weblog. Because I live in a small, watery cave beneath a generous covering of Southern Pines, I did not know this young man’s story until I came across it this evening at Man in the Middle. In hopes that other cave-dwelling creatures unfamiliar with the Wolf case might learn of it, I’m posting information on the case and links to source material here.

Wolf was first incarcerated on August 1, 2006. He spent several weeks on bail in September, but was reincarcerated on September 22 after again refusing to comply with a federal court’s order to turn over unedited video of July 2005 San Francisco protests against the G8 Forum taking place in Scotland. Today, March 8, 2007, Wolf’s case is scheduled for magistrate mediation at the San Francisco Federal Building. A press conference will follow at 2:00 PM PST.

Those who have spoken or written in advocacy of Josh Wolf include, among others, the International Press Institute, the Society of Professional Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the San Francisco Chronicle, the National Writers Union, the Center for Media and Democracy, the League of Young Voters, the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, California State Senator Carole Midgen, and Kamala Harris, the District Attorney of San Francisco.

Josh Wolf, 24, is the recipient of the 2006 Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Award and the 2007 James Madison Award for Online Free Speech.

From Wikipedia (emphasis added):

Josh Wolf, a video activist who reported on numerous protest and progressive events, videotaped an anti-G8 anarchist protest in San Francisco on July 8, 2005 in which the protesters wore masks to hide their identities. Over the next few days, Wolf posted several versions of edited clips of his video to a local activist website, Bay Area Indymedia (Indybay). While Wolf did sell some video to a single broadcast station the day after the protest, his video was exposed even further when most of the local corporate television news stations copied the video from the web and, due to the video’s dramatic nature, broadcast it in heavy rotation for several weeks. Later, Wolf was able to recover recompense from the corporate television stations that had used his video without consent. Through such heavy rotation in a major media market, Wolf’s videotape became the iconic moving images of the protest, especially as Wolf had recorded a protester being choked by a police officer and other officers threatening passers-by with stun guns. The only other recording that was broadcast nearly as much was a still photograph of a bloody police officer who was injured during the protest. Other activists who posted video and photographs to the Bay Area Indymedia website were contacted by the FBI seeking their original source materials, but it is unknown how many, if any, turned over their recordings to Federal authorities. Wolf’s videotape is the only known source material from the protest to have been sought by subpoena after refusal to turn it over.

The International Press Institute continues (emphasis added):

On 1 August 2006, Wolf was imprisoned for refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena dated 8 June 2006 to provide unedited video files to a grand jury empanelled on 1 February 2006. He was released one month later, but returned to prison in September 2006 after losing his appeal.

The case dates back to 8 July 2005 protests in San Francisco over the G8 Summit held in Scotland, United Kingdom. During the march, there was an outbreak of violence that damaged a police car and led to one police officer suffering a serious head injury.

Wolf filmed the events and posted edited clips on his blog and the Web site, Indymedia; these clips were later shown by news organisations. The authorities have tried to force Wolf to hand over unused footage in the hope of bringing prosecutions in the incident involving the police car.

In an apparent desire to avoid California’s state shield law, which offers protection to journalists seeking to keep information confidential, the prosecution has brought the case against Wolf in the federal courts where there is no federal shield law.

Wolf has lost several appeals culminating in a 30 January hearing before the US District Court for the Northern District of California. As a result, it appears he may remain in prison until the grand jury completes its investigation or ends its term in July.

In a 29 January filing at the court, US Attorney for the northern district of California, Kevin Ryan, said it is only in Wolf’s “imagination that he is a journalist.” By contrast, the northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists named Wolf a Journalist of the Year 2006.

Insisting under oath that his video contained no footage of the arson-related crime(s) in question, Josh offered to allow the presiding federal judge to review the material. The judge refused.

Because of Wolf’s status as an independent journalist working within San Francisco’s vibrant activist communities, because his video footage contains disturbing images of police brutality, and because of the dubious pretexts for escalating his case to the federal level, Wolf and many of his advocates believe that The United States of America versus Josh Wolf is a “fishing expedition” aimed at identifying and squelching political dissidents.

During his incarceration, Wolf has continued to maintain his weblog, focusing on issues related to his personal experiences in the penal system and on rehabilitation and resocialization of convicted criminals.

You can sign a petition calling for Wolf’s release here. (It is not necessary to follow the IPetitions donation link after registering your signature—there is no fee.)

You can write Josh Wolf at:

Josh Wolf #98005-111 Unit J2
FDC Dublin
Camp Parks
5675 8th Street
Dublin CA 94568 U.S.A.

The Revolution Will Be Televised, Josh Wolf’s weblog

A 6 minute documentary on the Wolf case by Kevin Epps and Njeri Sims:


2 Responses

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  1. naj said, on 3/10/07 at 5:28 pm

    This is AWEFUL!

    I didn’t know anything about this; thanks Curtis!

  2. HopeSpringsATurtle said, on 3/10/07 at 6:01 pm

    Good thoughts for Josh. Thanks for writing this up. I’m adding you to my blogroll. Peace-HopeSpringsATurtle

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