Call for journalist and blogger Josh Wolf to
after a month in jail
Josh Wolf, 24, was jailed August 1 after Federal Judge William
Alsup found Wolf in contempt of court, a charge brought about
by federal investigators purportedly interested in Wolf's videotape
footage identifying anarchists who may have been involved in torching
a San Francisco police car at a 2005 G-8 protest demonstration.
From the Society of Professional Journalists
August 31, 2006
Borders today reiterated its call for the release of young
freelance journalist Josh Wolf when his case comes before a federal
Wolf has been in prison since August 1 after being held in contempt
of court for refusing to surrender video footage to the police.
The press freedom organization also urged the federal courts
not to jail Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada of the San Francisco
Chronicle daily, who were ordered on August 15 to name their sources
for a report on doping.
"Both the Wolf and San Francisco Chronicle cases have 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," Reporters Without Borders
said. "It just does not hold up here."
The press freedom organization continued: "Confirmed contempt
of court orders against Wolf, Williams and Fainaru-Wada would
mean that the independence of the press - which is based among
other things on the right to professional secrecy - is more than
even in danger in the United States. They would also directly
violate article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights,
which the United States has signed."
Reporters Without Borders added: "Keeping Wolf in prison
would be tantamount to denying the role that the press 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."
The Free Flow of Information Act was introduced in May 2006 by
Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Christopher
Dodd (D-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Charles Schumer (D-NY).
A similar version was introduced by Representatives Pence (R-IN)
and Boucher (D-VA) in the House in July 2005.
Wolf's case goes back to July 2005, when he filmed a protest
in San Francisco against a G8 summit taking place in Scotland.
A police car was damaged during a clash between protesters and
police. A cable TV station aired the film of the protest that
Wolf had posted on his blog.
It was then picked up by local affiliates of the national networks.
Although Wolf has always denied having footage of the damaged
car, a federal judge ordered him to hand over all of his unedited
footage to a grand jury investigation.
Wolf refused on the basis of his rights under the US constitution's
First Amendment and a California shield law that allows journalists
to refuse to name sources or surrender unpublished material and
Similar laws exist in 32 other states but not yet at the federal
Because of Josh's refusal, a federal judge held him in contempt
of court on August 1. Denied bail, he was taken immediately to
a federal prison in Dublin, California.
A federal appeal court is due to rule very soon on his request
for release and, very likely, on the substance of the case as
well. If it rules against him, he could remain in prison until
he agrees to hand over his footage or until the grand jury's term
expires in July 2007.
In a message to Reporters Without Borders, Wolf's mother, Liz
Wolf-Spada, wrote today: "Josh said that I taught him to
stand up for what is right. I taught him about Martin Luther King
Jr. and the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement of
the 60s. I didn't ever think that standing up for his beliefs
in this way would cause him to
be imprisoned. I am proud of him for his courage and of course,
very concerned about him being in jail and hoping that he will
be released soon."
Wolf faces the possibility of having to pay $ 30,000 in legal
To contributed to his legal defense fund, click
Williams and Fainaru-Wada of the San Francisco Chronicle are
subject to contempt of court proceedings for their reporting in
2004 that disclosed confidential grand jury testimony. They revealed
details of the investigation into performance-enhancing drugs
allegedly supplied to prominent athletes by the San Francisco
company Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO).
Federal judicial officials have been trying to get them to name
the sources of the leaks, but they have refused on First Amendment
Federal district judge Jeffrey White rejected their arguments
in a ruling on August 15 that could lead to their imprisonment
if they continue to refuse.
The ruling is to be appealed.