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
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