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Postby Art Vandelay » Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:29 pm

Madison wrote:You'll probably disagree with this, but I see two things. First, he should have been willing to cooperate and turn over the footage.

I don't know enough about this particular case to say whether or not I think he should have turned it over, or what I would have done in his case, but I think it is absolutely imperative that journalists be able to do their jobs without fear of being jailed for it. A free press can't operate if everyone is scared of going to jail. This excerpt from a Reporters Without Borders article sums up my feelings pretty well: "Journalists are not meant to be police auxiliaries or informers and their role as news providers gives them the right to protect the confidentiality of their sources and material." Really, to me, it doesn't matter what's on the video.

Madison wrote:Did it say if he was allowed to make a copy or provide a copy for the police, or did they want him to turn over all copies?

I think they just wanted a copy of his unedited video, I don't believe they tried to take his original and not allow him to keep a copy. However, he did offer to let the judge see the video alone, because he claims that his video has no footage of the alleged crimes, and he figured the judge could determine whether or not his video is relevant to the case, but that request was refused.

There's a lot of information on the case. If you're interested in learning more about it google "Josh Wolf." Here's a pretty good article on it from infoshop. It's a little long, but interesting if you're into this stuff:

By Kari Lydersen
Infoshop News
March 3, 2007

San Francisco -- Theoretically, it’s about a damaged tail light on a San Francisco police car.

But in the minds of San Francisco independent journalist Josh Wolf and his supporters, it is about much, much more: federal intelligence gathering on activists, intimidation and retribution from angry police and the Grand Jury as a tool for spying, fishing expeditions and silencing dissent.

After six months in the Dublin federal prison in northern California, Wolf, 24, is now considered the journalist imprisoned the longest for refusing to turn over his notes and sources.

The US Attorney’s office in San Francisco is demanding Wolf testify and turn over video he shot at an anti-globalization protest in the Mission District over the Fourth of July weekend in 2005 as part of a Grand Jury investigation into whether a crime occurred at the protest. As is the case with Grand Juries, it is not fully clear what the alleged crime is or why it is in a federal court. Since the San Francisco police receive federal funding, they allege the damaged tail light on a San Francisco police car could constitute a federal crime. Authorities also alleged that protesters tried to burn a police car. Though apparently a fire cracker was thrown during the protest, no car was burned. An officer also sustained a head injury during the protest, where numerous activists were arrested.

Wolf says his video of the protest, organized by anarchists in solidarity with the anti-G8 Summit protest going on in Scotland, does not show the car being damaged or the officer being injured. It does show an officer choking protester Gabriel Meyers.

Wolf has agreed to allow US District Judge William Alsup to view his video in private, to prove it isn’t relevant to the Grand Jury investigation. But the judge declined.

“The Grand Jury is a tool for the prosecutor’s office to investigate anything they want,” said Carlos Villareal, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild-San Francisco, which has provided legal support to Wolf. “And [in the US Attorney’s view] the judge has no business deciding what is or isn’t relevant to the crime. This judge seems to agree with that viewpoint, which is so vulnerable to abuse.”

A Grand Jury is a system enshrined in the US Constitution to essentially investigate, secretly, whether a crime has actually occurred before charges are brought. In theory it protects people from unjust charges; but in reality it has become a way for prosecutors to question people without attorneys present and seek information without public or judicial oversight. The use of Grand Juries is especially disturbing since information obtained in the course of an investigation can be used to launch other criminal charges.

“On one hand this could provide useful information on activists they’re going for, they might believe somewhere down the road they can use the information they gather for conspiracy charges,” said Villareal. “And on the other hand it’s a way to defend the Grand Jury system. They don’t want to give up any of their power as far as Grand Juries and journalists.”

In a press statement issued Feb. 6, Wolf said, “If the US Attorney can compel journalists to testify about what they’ve learned through their work and force them to turn over their unpublished materials, then not only will the public be unable to trust reporters but journalists themselves will become de facto deputies and investigators -- a role few of us want and one I have refused to accept.”

Wolf’s mother, Liz Wolf-Spada, sees parallels between her son’s situation and the government surveillance and repression of the 1950s and 1960s which she witnessed growing up in Los Angeles.

“Then the House Un-American Activities Committee was ruining people’s lives,” she said. “Josh doesn’t want to start a witch hunt, which is what he’s afraid will happen. He’d be helping them complete a database of civil disobedience. It seems very similar to [the] Vietnam [era], when you could ruin someone’s life by calling them a Communist. Now anyone who disagrees with the Bush administration is a terrorist.”

She noted that Wolf had previously attracted attention from the San Francisco Police Department by filming protesters arrested at a 2002 protest.

“They were coming out of jail with bruises, Josh documented it and that tape is being used against the police,” she said. “They do know who he is.”

The judge has ordered the case into federal mediation, so it is possible Wolf could be released in the coming month. However a new Grand Jury could be called, or the prosecutor’s office could take other measures to keep Wolf imprisoned.

“I wouldn’t put anything below these prosecutors,” said Villareal.

If the case was playing out in a state court, Wolf would be protected from testifying and turning his notes over by the state’s shield law. California is one of 31 states and the District of Columbia which have laws providing journalists varying degrees of protection from cooperating with government investigations. For years journalists have been calling for a federal shield law which would afford uniform protection to journalists nationwide. In the wake of Wolf’s incarceration, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution calling for a federal shield law.

But prosecutors in Wolf’s case have also argued he is not a “reporter” who should be granted journalists’ privileges, but rather an “activist.” With the increase of blogs, alternative news websites and other forms of democratic electronic media, nationwide debate about shield laws and freedom of the press protections have focused largely on how “journalist” is defined. Many have argued that the act of journalism – gathering information for distribution to the public – should be protected by law rather than a law protecting journalists as individuals.

Ironically former New York Times reporter Judith Miller became an unlikely poster child for journalistic protections, going to jail for originally refusing to reveal which Bush Administration sources leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. Much more common, however, are cases like that of Wolf, Bay Area reporter Sarah Olson or Chicago independent journalist Jamie Kalven.

Olson was one of the first journalists to interview Lt. Ehren Watada, an Army officer facing military court martial for refusing to re-deploy to Iraq. Among other things the government is charging Watada with “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman” for speaking with media about his situation and his opposition to the war. In December 2006 the military subpoenaed Olson to testify about her interviews with Watada, which aired on Pacifica Radio and the website truthout.org. Olson publicly resisted the subpoena, which related to audio files already publicly available, and on Jan. 29 the Army dropped it.

In Chicago, Kalven was threatened with jail time for contempt of court after refusing to turn over a decade’s worth of notes from his extensive reporting in the Chicago public housing development Stateway Gardens. The city subpoenaed Kalven’s notes as part of their defense of five police officers charged in a civil rights lawsuit filed by Stateway resident Diane Bond. Bond alleged the officers searched her without a warrant and intimidated and brutalized her repeatedly over the course of a year. Kalven agreed to submit notes related to the lawsuit, but viewed the city’s sweeping request as a way to punish him and prevent him from reporting on untold stories in marginalized communities like Stateway Gardens.

“If they took everything they asked for, they would be coming in with wheelbarrows,” said Kalven, who is now off the hook since the city settled Bond’s lawsuit in December. “This has felt like an effort to discredit my reporting and make it harder to do that reporting.”

His ongoing work has extra significance since documents and reporting related to Bond’s case revealed a systematic failure by the city of Chicago to track and discipline officers with repeated abuse complaints.

"It felt very much like an attempt to punish and silence the critic,” said Craig Futterman, the attorney representing Bond in the civil rights suit. “The many years of credibility he had built; the trust and confidentiality implicit in everything he did; the city was seeking to destroy that."

In cases like those of Kalven and Wolf, complying with a subpoena would not only give the government privileged information, but destroy their future ability to report on communities which are not adequately represented by the mainstream media. Kalven’s sources in public housing would no longer be able to trust him if they knew the government could force him to turn over information, he noted. In Wolf’s case, his mother says, “His beat would be ruined. He’s filmed a number of these protests and developed a level of trust, so he is able to film things like the police officer choking Gabe Meyers which someone else might not have been able to get footage of.”

As the political climate in the US becomes increasingly tense and the “war on terror” proceeds, reporters and civil liberties advocates fear that the use of subpoenas by local, state or federal courts and Grand Juries will continue to be used as a tool for information gathering, intimidation and silencing of reporting and dissent.

“The role of the media is to ask the questions…and to demand answers from the powers that be,” said Wolf in his February statement. “That is why the media is under attack, and this is why it is so urgent that we continue to fight back. Because without a free press we can never be free.”


http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.p ... 3161212688
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Postby Art Vandelay » Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:45 pm

Amazinz wrote:I haven't formed an opinion one way or the other but the incident resulted in a police officer having his skull fractured. :-/

This is the article where I read that.


As I understand it, his tape is wanted as evidence in the property crime case involving the damaged tail light, not the incident involving the officer who was injured.

Also, I don't think the specifics of the case matter. What matters to me is the government forcing journalists to beomce agents of the state. If a journalist wants to help a prosecutor make a case, that's fine, but that's not his job--nor his duty--and he shouldn't be jailed for not aiding.
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Postby knapplc » Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:47 pm

Art, in your opinion what does constitute a journalist? Am I a journalist?
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Postby Art Vandelay » Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:55 pm

knapplc wrote:Art, in your opinion what does constitute a journalist? Am I a journalist?


Someone who captures an event to be shown for public consumption, whether that's on broadcast, cable or satellite television or radio, or online.

I have no idea if you're a journalist or not. But if you bring a video camera to an event in order to record it and post it on a website for people to view, then yes, I'd consider you a journalist. An amateur journalist, but a journalist still. And as I said before, with the paradigm shift that is currently taking place concering the media as a whole, and what constitutes news, I think it's important to keep the government away from granting itself the role of "definer."
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Postby Madison » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:09 pm

Interesting reads guys. Thanks! ;-D

I still don't see the problem in this case though. There were crimes committed, he's got a tape that could help show exactly what happened, who did what, etc., and he is refusing to turn over that possible evidence? Why?

It's no different than hiding a known murderer from the police in my opinion. What's the difference in assisting in a crime, and withholding evidence of a crime?

It's not like the government *thinks* something might have happened and want to see a copy of what he's got, they know crimes were committed. :-?

Art Vandelay wrote:Someone who captures an event to be shown for public consumption, whether that's on broadcast, cable or satellite television or radio, or online.


See, I disagree with this as well. Just because someone blogs, writes an article, posts up a home video, etc, that does not constitute them as a "journalist" to me.

If it is someone's actual "job" (meaning they get paid to do it and it's their only job), then maybe I'd be more lax with the definition, but just because I write an article about the All-Star Game voting being a joke (which I did do), that doesn't automatically make me a journalist and mean I don't have to comply with police, the courts, and/or the government. :-?
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Postby knapplc » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:26 pm

Art Vandelay wrote:
knapplc wrote:Art, in your opinion what does constitute a journalist? Am I a journalist?


Someone who captures an event to be shown for public consumption, whether that's on broadcast, cable or satellite television or radio, or online.

I have no idea if you're a journalist or not. But if you bring a video camera to an event in order to record it and post it on a website for people to view, then yes, I'd consider you a journalist. An amateur journalist, but a journalist still. And as I said before, with the paradigm shift that is currently taking place concering the media as a whole, and what constitutes news, I think it's important to keep the government away from granting itself the role of "definer."


I think you give a reasonable definition of journalist, but the problem that creates is determining then who is NOT a journalist. By this definition pretty much anyone can be a journalist. All you need to do is use your cell phone camera to capture an image and post it on the Cafe and you’re a journalist. Let’s say I take a picture of myself at the local independent league baseball game. I then write a story with picture and post it here at the Cafe. Am I not then a journalist?

So then the problem becomes who is NOT a journalist? This presents a fiendish little problem for police and other government officials in defining who gets what access to crime scenes, who gets to follow along with troops in combat, who gets into news conferences, etc. Where do you draw the line? And a better question is who gets to draw that line (which is essentially what I think you’re asking)?

The government? Why? Why do they get to decide?

The private sector? Same question – why do they get to decide?

The public as a whole? But again, why them?



I don’t envy the people on either side of this situation in San Francisco. I think it’s a mess that’s going to take a while to figure out.
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Postby Art Vandelay » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:27 pm

Madison wrote:There were crimes committed, he's got a tape that could help show exactly what happened, who did what, etc., and he is refusing to turn over that possible evidence? Why?

Principle. It's not necessarily about this particular case, but about the precedent.

Madison wrote:It's no different than hiding a known murderer from the police in my opinion. What's the difference in assisting in a crime, and withholding evidence of a crime?

It's not like the government *thinks* something might have happened and want to see a copy of what he's got, they know crimes were committed. :-?

We just have a difference of opinion here. The thing is, it's his role as a journalist to document the event, it's not his job or his duty to help the government make a case. Having the government force journalists to hand over the work (video, audio recordings, notes, etc.) is treading dangerously close to getting rid of the free press as we know it.


Madison wrote:See, I disagree with this as well. Just because someone blogs, writes an article, posts up a home video, etc, that does not constitute them as a "journalist" to me.

And you're definitely with the majority there. If you would have asked me 15, 10, possibly even five years ago I may have agreed, but I don't anymore. And this is coming from someone who is an actual "journalist." Most of my colleagues absolutely abhor the popularity and apparent legitimacy of bloggers, podcasters, etc.

Madison wrote:Just because I write an article about the All-Star Game voting being a joke (which I did do), that doesn't automatically make me a journalist and mean I don't have to comply with police, the courts, and/or the government. :-?


Well, in all other facets of your life you'd still have to comply, but if the government came knocking on your door because they said they needed the notes from your article (or tape recordings if you had interviewed someone) to help them with their steroid investigation, I would absolutely fight for your right to keep those from investigators.
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Postby Mugrila » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:31 pm

Half Massed wrote:Let's make the best of this quad. Who said something about Virginia wine? I didn't even know they made wine in Virgina.


There are give or take 110 wineries in Virginia. Ours started in about 1980, so we're one of the oldest.
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Postby knapplc » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:40 pm

Mugrila wrote:
Half Massed wrote:Let's make the best of this quad. Who said something about Virginia wine? I didn't even know they made wine in Virgina.


There are give or take 110 wineries in Virginia. Ours started in about 1980, so we're one of the oldest.


Now I know why you changed my quote. I remember you mentioning that your family owns a vineyard/winery. I even went to your website. I'm WAY jealous of you guys. If I can ever move out of this stinkin' town I'm going to buy some land and grow some grapes for our local winery. No more than 20 acres, house included, but I'd at least like to have the grapes.

There's just something wholesome and cool about grape vines and the wine they produce. ;-D
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Postby AcidRock23 » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:51 pm

France has always been more centralized and regimented than the US. Départements are more like administrative divisions w/ little legislative or executive power analogous to states in the US. It kind of suprises me that they did not already have some sort of regulation/ licensing of journalists as there is generally quite a bit more of that over there.
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