(Josh Wolf isÂ a freelance journalist and anarchist. HeÂ has beenÂ jailedÂ for refusing to turn over videotapes of a protest being investigated by aÂ federal grand jury. Online Journalism Review has written about his case; here is a bit moreÂ from Wikipedia; andÂ from his own site.Â On Friday,Â December 1, 2006, I ran a reminderÂ of his incarceration. I will write aboutÂ his caseÂ every FridayÂ until he is freed.Â What will you do?Â Tom Abate, San Leandro, California; aka MiniMediaGuy).
I have been talking about Josh Wolf for weeks. Last night I spent a little timeÂ listeing to him. IÂ visited the blog that features hisÂ occasionally posts toÂ from prison and read an entryÂ from a week before Christmas.Â In it, he describes himself as the “canary in the coal mine” whoseÂ incarceration should “should trigger alarms to journalists far and wide.”Â Alas,Â he writes:
“the mainstream media has not exactly embraced the so-called â€œcitizen journalistâ€ movement with open arms; some are afraid their careers may become obsolete. It may be a result of this defensive attitude that many news outlets have turned a blind eye to my situation â€“ after all, Iâ€™m not employed by a multinational media conglomerate, so how can I be a â€œreal journalistâ€?”
Some mayÂ debate whether a freelancer and activist isÂ a journalist. ButÂ I’m not hung up on that.Â As I’ve written before,Â Josh is being jailed on a thin pretext. And as IÂ arguedÂ recently, what the feds have doneÂ to him they could do to anyone with a camera-phone. JoshÂ understates the seriousness of the warning that his case should send. The government seems to think any federal prosecutor can jail any citizen to coerce them to produceÂ audiovisual evidence on any topicÂ under inverstigation by a grand jury.
With what oversight and restraint? What an astonishing assertion of power. Any crime on any streetcornerÂ can become a federal offenseÂ — turn over your digital devices, now, or else.
It’sÂ not clear whatÂ crimeÂ the “recalcitrant witness” Josh WolfÂ is being jailed for not bearing witness to. After my Christmas posting his mother, Liz Wolf Spada, emailed me to say:
“Even the SFPD police report does not talk about a police car being burned and the car in question is reported as having a broken tail light. Since that information has become public knowledge, we hear less from the US Attorney about the imaginary burning of a police car, but they still haven’t come up with a valid crime they are investigating that justifies federal investigation. They want Josh to testify. This is not about the tape. You are right, the crowd is the crime.”