Josh Wolf Celebrates His Release
April 5, 2007 2:14 PM
Josh Wolf made his first public appearance after 226 days in federal imprisonment at a City Hall press conference Tuesday evening.
As a crowd of about 20 supporters cheered from the sidewalk, the freelance journalist and SF State alumnus smiled as he walked by the crowd of reporters and photographers. He shook hands and hugged some of his supporters and friends.
“We at last came to an agreement that not only left my ethics intact,” but also the concept of a free press, Wolf said.
“We don’t need our ‘Free Josh Wolf’ signs anymore,” said Julian Davis, a friend of Wolf’s and coordinator of the Free Josh Wolf Coalition. “Josh won a knockout punch in the late rounds.”
Along with Davis, Wolf’s attorney David Greene, Bay Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann and San Francisco Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Tom Ammiano were on hand at the press conference.
“You went in as a blogger,” Mirkarimi said to Wolf. “You’re out as a hunk with a new cause we can rally around.”
“Josh did what the Giants couldn’t do today, he hit a home run,” Ammiano said, enthusiastically.
Wolf’s freedom came after reaching an agreement with the United States Attorney’s office to submit raw footage he shot of an anti-globalization protest through the Mission district in 2005 as part of an investigation regarding the assault of a police officer and the torching of a police car during the protest. Wolf denied that anything of value is on the tape.
Along with his release from prison, Wolf will not have to testify before a Grand Jury in the investigation.
“Although I feel that the unpublished material should be shielded, the testimony was more egregious,” Wolf said. “It was not a defeat in having to release the video, but it was a defeat in saying I couldn’t hold onto it.”
Wolf contends that his decision to turn over the unedited video would not set a precedent for the government to go after the unpublished materials of other reporters and photographers.
“My resistance [in this case] will decrease the occurrence of that happening,” he said after the press conference.
Wolf reiterated his support for a Federal Shield Law to protect journalists from turning over notes and unpublished material to the government, specifically one that protects freelance journalists such as himself.
“We shouldn’t have to decide who is or isn’t a journalist,” Wolf said. “That’s like state-sanctioned journalism.”
While in prison, Wolf said he received about 1,000 letters from supporters around the country. He praised the support he received from people in the media and others, but decried the lack of national broadcast media attention to his story, even when he became the longest-jailed journalist in American history.
“There’s a rejection by the national media against the independent media,” Wolf said. “We need a dialogue between the two.”
Despite the lack of national media attention, Wolf’s attorney, who is the executive director of the First Amendment Project, said the swell of support helped his client.
“It emboldened Josh,” said Greene, who also teaches mass communications law at SF State.
“With the support, it’s easier to go at it each day,” Wolf said.
Alma T. DiStefano, a 21-year-old student at City College of San Francisco, was one of those who came out to see Wolf. She met Wolf at a protest rally and has been friends with him since.
“I really believe in what Josh is doing,” said DiStefano. “He triumphed and everyone who supported him triumphed.”
Wolf said he has several projects lined up, including the formation of the “Free Media Coalition” to protect reporters from government and corporate censorship, and a service called “Prison Blogs,” where those in jail can be sponsored by individuals who can communicate their messages from behind bars.
In the meantime, a party in Wolf’s honor was scheduled later that evening at the House of Shields bar in the Financial District. However, Wolf said he wasn’t sure he would attend his own party.
“Prison’s like the country, everything’s slow, not much going on,” he said. “Now that I’m back in the big city, everything’s overwhelming.”
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