07 February, 2007

Josh Wolf's history mark

"Much is made of China imprisoning bloggers, yet we have a very similar situation here in the US." Simon Barrett, bloggernews.net

Julian Davis:
Today Josh Wolf becomes the longest incarcerated journalist for contempt in U.S. history. He is exemplary of a new class of independent free-lance journalists who are changing the landscape of journalism with new media and new modes of communication. Wolf and those like him are no less deserving of protection that the mainstream media. With other reporters, such a Lance Williams, Mark Fainaru-Wada and until very recently Sarah Olson under threat of jail time, the importance of passing an inclusive and robust federal shield law has never been more apparent.

Representatives of the Free Josh Wolf Coalition were in Washington D.C. last week lobbying members of Congress to call for Wolf's release. Their plea follows on the heels of recent requests by Speaker Pelosi, Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and Representatives Conyers and Davis that Attorney General Gonzales rescind subpoenas of San Francisco Chronicle writers Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada. Their success or failure to conjure action from Congress on Wolf's behalf will be a telling comment on the state of Democracy in America. Within days the Hearst Corporation was able rally at least five Representatives and Senators to the defense of the embattled Chronicle reporters.

Josh Wolf does not have a powerful media giant to pay his legal bills or exert influence in Congress but he does have the support of a formidable and ever-growing list of professional journalist organizations and first ammendment advocates including The National Press Club, The Society of Professional Journalists, the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders, the Newspaper Guild, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Center for Media and Democracy, the National Writers Union, and the First Amendment Project. If Congress will react to the Hearst Corporation and not this impressive coalition professionals and advocates, the thesis that our great American experiment in Democracy has devolved into little more than a thinly veiled Corporate Oligarchy will never have been so well supported.
Huffington managed to run a decent piece (& great improvement over one they ran last fall); otherwise the 'great liberal progrsessive netroots' aren't concerning themselves much with a first amendment issue that has imprisoned a young man. Even yesterday's NY Times article didn't seem to spark much interest. Google reveals the story is all over the place today. Let's hope people wake up & start paying attention.

Here’s the letter to DC-critters from Josh’s mother posted on his blog last week:

I am Liz Wolf-Spada, the mother of imprisoned journalist, Josh Wolf. I am so sorry I cannot be there today in person. I want to thank Lucie Morillon and Reporters Without Borders for their diligence and faithfulness in following the story of my son’s ordeal and imprisonment since the beginning. As a public school teacher, I have very limited time I can manage to be gone and I had planned to be there on the 8th and 9th of February, hoping to speak with both members of the press and congressional delegates.

Ironically, as my son faces his 160th day of imprisonment as a journalist who is not cooperating with a federal grand jury investigation, I am teaching the California social studies curriculum to my third grade class. We are learning about the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is a FAST FACT quote from our textbook.

“Freedom of the press is the right of United States citizens to write, read and speak freely. Today, the press includes not only newspapers and magazines, but films, television and the internet.” How difficult it is for me to teach my class to believe that we have a free press, when I see that we do not. From Judith Miller to Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wadu to my son, Josh Wolf, the federal government no longer seems to recognize the rights of us, the citizens, to benefit from your open, unbiased and unhindered reporting.When independent journalists such as my son, are imprisoned for refusing to turn over unpublished material and testify about people exercising free speech rights at an anti-war, anti-G8 summit protest in San Francisco, it certainly has a chilling effect on what may or may not be filmed and reported to the public. Who wants to report controversial news knowing that their reporting could lead to months of imprisonment for standing by journalistic principles?

Josh is one of many young journalists who use words and video to tell the story of what they see happening in the world around them. For most of them, the internet is the chosen vehicle to publish this information. For many people today, young and old, it is also a major source of news. Recently, I attended the Free Press, Reform the Media Conference in Memphis. I was there to speak about Josh’s case. There were 3500 people there, people who care about protecting the rights of you, the press, so that you can protect our rights to be informed citizens. Josh is on the crest of the wave of a media revolution and he is in prison. What does that say about our country’s commitment to a free press?
“We need those who provoke us so that we may be warned of the fate that our prejudices or ignorance or wishful thinking may hold in store for us.”

—William O. Douglas, former U.S. Supreme Court justice, 1962

previously:
Josh Wolf: patriot
free press? why Josh Wolf sitting in prison matters

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