San Francisco reporter asserts right to remain silent before
federal grand jury
Journalist Josh Wolf recalls protest demonstration captured on
Attorney Ben Rosenfield seen in background at left, with Carlos
director of the NLG San Francisco
June 16, 2006
A San Francisco journalist avoided jail time yesterday despite
refusal to answer federal grand jury questioning on his unpublished
Hours earlier U.S. District Judge William ordered freelance video
journalist Josh Wolf to answer prosecutor questions based on an
Prosecutors told Wolf he was free to go after Wolf maintained
his right to remain silent and to discuss posed questions with
legal counsel, according to his attorney.
It was the second subpoena issued by the FBI demanding unpublished
footage of a January 8, 2005, anarchist demonstration be surrendered
A San Francisco police officer was hit over the head by a demonstrator
at the protest, Wolf's attorney concedes. Portions of video were
Attorney Ben Rosenfield described the incident as "deplorable"
but charged federal authorities with ongoing efforts to override
reporter shield acts provided by 33 states. Rosenfield is the
lead attorney of legal defense provided by the National Lawyers
San Francisco Federal Building is site of press conference
detailed by Ben Rosenfield
In California, reporters shielded by statute and constitution
from judicial order to surrender unpublished material.
"So it is a sad day when the federal government can render
these state protections irrelevant and when local police and prosecutors
cooperate or are at least complicit," added Carlos Villarreal,
director of the NLG San Francisco.
Villarreal described federal intervention as an attack on free
"So this is an all out assault on free speech - the freedom
to gather information and disseminate that information to the
public and the freedom to organize politically.
"The public benefits tremendously from a free press and
the media serves a critical purpose in our democracy.
"Journalists must not feel that the government is over their
shoulder when they do their work and their subjects, whether whistleblowers
or political activists taking on an unpopular stand, should not
feel the media is just an arm of government.
"That is why we have a shield law for journalists in California
- to protect the public and preserve the benefits of a free press.