Free Independent Journalist Josh Wolf and Support Bloggers Rights!


I always make it a point to surround myself with really good people. I've always had a feeling that some of the people in my circle of friends would go down in history as someone of real importance, and it has finally happened.

A good friend of mine, Josh Wolf, was pretty active in our local music scene before he moved away. We'd go out to events, hang out, talk about life and various important issues of the day. Many of his friends often associated him with his video skills. He was the first one of my friends to get one of those sweet, professional-grade DVCAMs awhile back, and I knew that he took his film career far more seriously than any of my other friends at the time. After all, it took him quite awhile to be able to afford one of those video cameras.

Soon, he became known as one of the Internet's first video bloggers, and he published vlogs years before YouTube even came into existence. Now Josh, like most good people, wanted to use his knowledge to actually do some good in the world. He started the independent internet media network RUN (Rise Up Network) because he wanted something like the station Current TV, but he wanted the videographers to maintain the rights to their videos and not be censored in what they could or couldn't show.

Recently, he videotaped a demonstration protesting the G8 summit in San Fransisco and was one of the only journalists present since protests are often not covered by mainstream media. However, this protest turned unruly, and it resulted in some so naturally his footage was suddenly in high demand. He had posted an edited version of this footage on his web site and local news media took an interest in it. He sold his footage (although some of it wwas initially used without his permission) and it was aired on San Francisco television news stations. That, and previous acts of his, certainly grants him status as an independent journalist. California has Shield Laws to protect journalists like Josh, but there is no federal equivalent.

Well, the feds have decided that they want to see his unedited footage and threatened him with imprisonment if he didn't hand his tapes over. Now, I'm not Josh, but I'm sure several things must have been running through his head. If he turns over his tapes, he will identify his journalistic sources on video and they will probably be investigated, harassed and possibly prosecuted regardless of whether or not they were involved with any of the unruly behavior at the protest. After that, he will no longer be granted access to videotape and document future political events in his community because they will shun him as a being a spy for the federal government out to quell freedom of speech. Imagine if the Washington Post were forced to reveal videotapes of Deepthroat during the Watergate scandal. What sources would talk to any of the journalists at that newspaper after that? An action like this would essentially ruin his career and probably destroy the online Rise Up Network he founded.

Also, Josh Wolf is no Robert Novak. He does not have the teams of lawyers and legal defense resources protecting a journalist's right to protect his or her sources like thosew working at large news gathering corporations do. However, California has relatively strong Shield Laws to help independent Journalists. One would think he would be protected, but something unexpected happened. During the protest, a cop car was destroyed. The FBI claimed that cop cars are partially funded by federal money, and since a cop car was destroyed during the protest, he is to be processed under federal law and is no longer protected by California's Shield Laws protecting the right of independent journalists. They say they want to see the unedited tapes because it may contain footage of the cop car's destruction, but Josh maintains that he has no such footage. So they gave Josh an ultimatum. Hand over the unedited tapes or go to federal prison for a year.

Josh is now serving his sentence and he needs our help.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/02/us/02protest.html?ex=1312171200&en=c7aa300c371db20c&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-laufer/free-josh-wolf_b_26424.html
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1222780,00.html
http://news.com.com/A+bloggers+battle+from+behind+bars/2008-1030_3-6104485.html
http://abcnews.go.com/US/LegalCenter/wireStory?id=2263365&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312
http://news.com.com/2061-11199_3-6102048.html
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/08/03/EDG0RK9T7T1.DTL
http://www.freelanceuk.com/news/1824.shtml
http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/09/0354216
http://wearethemedia.com/2006/08/01/judge-sends-vlogger-journalist-to-prison-for-not-handing-over-footage-of-protest
http://blogher.org/node/9023

and Google and Yahoo can point you to more...

Actually, I shouldn't have spoken on behalf of Josh Wolf's thoughts. Here's an excerpt from his interview with news.com

Tell us about your rationale in deciding not to hand over the video tapes. How much of it was about protecting your sources, or activists caught on tape, and how much of it was about First Amendment rights?
Wolf: First and foremost, this issue should be a state issue. The federal grand jury is investigating the alleged attempted damage to a San Francisco police vehicle. That is the subject of the investigation. If an S.F. police vehicle is considered federal property, then what isn't federal property? Your school? Even City Hall itself. I'm not sure that that extension is accurate, but it's not very much of a stretch and that is very disturbing.

Beyond that, I should be protected in the state system by the California shield law. The state of California, the local jurisdiction, has made no attempts to try to get this footage. This is an attempt of the federal government circumventing the state protections for who knows what purpose. Something tells me that it's about more than damage to a San Francisco police vehicle. And it's a scary position when you have the government acting in such a coercive, secretive manner. The fact that I am a journalist and should be protected is a very big part of it. When I went in and began documenting this movement, I gave my word to numerous people that I would only publish what my discretion allowed and beyond that would not turn over additional material. So they are sources in a different sort of way than the Judith Miller case, but there still is an element of protecting sources and also protecting people's right to privacy and freedoms of association.

It is no surprise that several civil liberties groups and journalists support Josh Wolf including former New York Times reporter Judith Miller who spent 85 days in jail last year for being in a somewhat similar situation. You can see the video at : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McdcOcAVHCg.<

Now, despite some national coverage, Josh SERIOUSLY needs our help. The feds have basically said to him, "hand over the tapes and you go free" and he is sticking to his ethics and integrity. Unfortunately, a will of steel will not pay the the thousands of dollars in legal fees that are mounting... and that's not counting the fees required to keep his apartment, jail costs, and more.

Things you can do to support for Josh

Write to Josh at:
Joshua Selassie Wolf 98005-111
FCI Dublin
Federal Correctional Institution
5701 8th St. Camp-Parks, Unit J-2
Dublin, CA 94568

Books
Josh has recieved his maximum number books allowed in his cell. We will update everyone when he needs more reading material. He can still recieve magazines, letters and photocopied materials.

Visits
Unfortunately Josh's visits are limited to his immediate family and his lawyer.

For information on prison mail regulations and tips on letter writing
please visit:

Josh Wolf Wiki
http://freejosh.pbwiki.com/

Free Josh Blog
http://freejoshwolf.blogspot.com/

And of course his site which his mother is currently maintaining.
http://www.joshwolf.net/

Several people have started throwing benefit concerts and fundraising dance events including me and my friends. Check his wiki or blog for updated details about how you can get involved in your area.
http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/supportjoshwolf

Congratulations Josh. At 24-years-old, you have gone down in history as the first Blogger to be hunted down by the feds and you didn't give up. You are my new hero.

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