Home   Google ARCHIVE SEARCH: Date:

Journalist could be jailed for refusing to surrender video to authorities

Josh Wolf, 24, faces a contempt of court charge brought about by federal investigators purportedly interested in identifying anarchists who may have been involved in torching a San Francisco police car at a 2005 protest demonstration.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

From Reporters without Borders

July 30, 2006

Reporters Without Borders protested today against attempts by the US attorney's office to have freelance journalist Josh Wolf held in contempt of court for refusing to surrender video he shot of anti-G8 demonstrations in San Francisco in July 2005. The request is to be heard before a federal court in San Francisco tomorrow.

"This situation highlights how urgent it is for the US Congress to recognise the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources, a right that is absolutely essential to their work and to the American people's right to be informed," the press freedom organisation said. "This right of protecting their sources is recognised in a number of US states but not at the federal level."

Reporters Without Borders added: "As journalists are not police auxiliaries, Congress must quickly support the proposed federal shield law that would guarantee them 'a qualified privilege' as regards the protection of their sources. The Free Flow of Information Act would extend the same protection to journalists at the federal level that they enjoy in 32 states."

This bill has been introduced in the Senate last May by Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) and Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut). A similar bill has been introduced in the House by Mike Pence (R-Indiana) and Rick Boucher (D-Virginia).

Wolf filmed the demonstrations. He posted his footage on his website and it was aired by Kron TV, an independent news station. After circulating on the Internet, it was picked up by local affiliates of national TV networks.

After seeing the published footage, assistant US attorney Jeffrey Finigan asked Wolf to hand over all of the unedited footage he had shot of the incident. The government assertion's is that someone attempted to set a police car on fire.

Wolf denied having any more detailed footage of the object of the investigation or witnessing the alleged incident. He insisted that he was anyway protected by a Californian shield law under which journalists have the right both to protect the confidentiality of their sources and to refuse to surrender unpublished material and notes.

At tomorrow's civil contempt hearing, Wolf faces the possibility of immediate imprisonment as well as having to between 10,000 and 15,000 dollars in lawyers' fees for his defence and for a potential appeal.

Wolf told Reporters Without Borders he was nervous about the outcome, as the judge has behaved unpredictably throughout the ordeal.

At the same time, Wolf referred to the support he is receiving from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which is expected tomorrow to pass a resolution defending his rights as a journalist and calling on the federal authorities to respect the confidentiality of sources for the sake of press freedom, as laid down in the First Amendment to the US constitution.

More information on this case: http://joshwolf.net/grandjury/




The Hunger Site

Cooking Classes
in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires B&B

Calitri in southern Italy

L' Aquila in Abruzzo

Health Insurance Quotes


Bruce Brugmann's


Civic Center

Dan Noyes

Greg Dewar

Griper Blade


Malik Looper






MetroWize Urban Guide

Michael Moore

N Judah Chronicles


Robert Solis

SF Bay Guardian





SFWillie's Blog



Sweet Melissa