Josh Wolf Now Longest Incarcerated Journalist
Supporters Mark Day 169
February 6, 2007 9:32 PM
Freelance journalist and SF State alumnus Josh Wolf stepped into an unlikely chapter of the record books Tuesday, becoming the longest jailed journalist in United States history for refusing to consent to a grand jury subpoena.
Politicians, journalists, his attorney and activists gathered at San Francisco City Hall to call for his release.
“Josh is in jail for every one of you holding a camera … a notepad … a microphone and for all of those who are readers and listeners,” said David Greene, one of Wolf’s attorneys and a lecturer in Mass Communications Law at SF State. “This is not a selfish act, he has nothing to gain personally from being in jail … He sacrificed his freedom for the free press."
“Surely 168 days is enough for the government to send the message intended," he added.
San Francisco Bay Guardian publisher and editor Bruce Brugmann called Wolf a “hero” along with most of the other speakers. He also alluded to a time when he traveled to South Korea to lobby for the release of journalists there.
“This is worse. I’ve never seen anything like this. Where are we, in Bulgaria, in Korea,” Brugmann asked.
Brugmann said that Wolf was targeted by the Bush Administration in order to intimidate the antiwar community in San Francisco and to chill freedom of speech and journalists nationwide.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi angrily denounced what he called the “thuggery of the federal government, the Bush Administration, and federal Judge [William] Alsup,” for holding Wolf in contempt of a federal grand jury.
“Alsup called Wolf an alleged journalist, well Judge Alsup is an alleged judge and should not be on the bench,” said Mirkarimi.
Mirkarimi continued to castigate embattled San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and other officals for not supporting the coalition to free Wolf.
“It bothers me that our local officials do not support Josh Wolf. I am angry as hell about this,” he said.
Julian Davis, 28, of the Free Josh Wolf Coalition insisted that those that call for Wolf’s release are not a “fringe” movement.
Davis said he recently returned from Washington, D.C., where met with Senate and Congressional staffers to lobby for support of Wolf’s release and a federal shield law that would include freelance journalists.
He said he spoke with staffers for Democratic California senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, and staffers for representatives Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., John Conyers Jr., D- Mich., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and others.
The case centers on video footage Wolf shot of a protest against the G-8 Summit on June 8, 2005 where a police car was allegedly vandalized by protesters.
Prosecuters contend that because SFPD recieved federal funds the stringent California Sheild Law does not protect Wolf from federal grand jury demands.
Wolf, who graduated from SF State's psychology department, and his supporters say that turning over the footage will allow the federal government to force reporters to become agents of investigation.
Wolf and his attorneys said his footage is materially uselesss to authorities.
The case also asks who is considered a journalist--freelancers, bloggers, "citizen" journalist and other emerging distinctions of people who report the news.
Wolf can remain in federal prsion until July on charges of contempt, according to his supporters.
The Society of Professional Journalist granted Wolf $30,000 for his legal defense, the largest donation in legal history for a journalist in the United States, according to the organization.
"I will not and cannot be coerced," Wolf said in a prepared statement read by a supporter.
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