Reporters without freedom


(Josh Wolf is a freelance journalist and anarchist. He has been jailed for refusing to turn over videotapes of a protest being investigated by a federal grand jury. Online Journalism Review has written about his case; here is a bit more from Wikipedia. On Friday, December 1, 2006, I ran a reminder of his incarceration. I will write about his case every Friday until he is freed. Visit his site and find a way to help. Tom Abate, San Leandro, Ca; aka MiniMediaGuy).

Josh Wolf was an absent guest of honor when Reporters Without Borders, the international media rights group based in France, issued its 2007 Report on censorship yesterday at a press conference in Washington, D.C. A statement was read on behalf of his mother, Liz Wolf Spada, who called for his release. Wolf has been in jail for more than 150 for refusing to turn over tapes and testify about an anti-global protest that he videotaped.

The U.S. portion of the report summarized his case thus:

“The 24-year-old Californian had filmed a demonstration at a G8 summit in 2005 during which a police vehicle was attacked and damaged. A federal judge ordered him to hand over his film and when he refused, he was sent to prison for a month in August 2006, then sent back to jail on 18 September by a federal appeal court, which refused to rehear the case on 16 November, meaning he will probably stay there until a grand jury finishes its investigation of the vehicle attack in July 2007.”

A special section of the report focused on the Internet, warning “dictatorships . . . seem to be tightening their grip . . . at least 60 people are in prison for posting criticism of the government online (with) China, the leading offender.”

Here is an excerpt that I edited to focus on China, which is the biggest and boldest but not the only Internet censor:

“Sixty people are currently in jail for posting criticism of governments online, with China’s 50 making it by far the world’s worst prison for cyber-dissidents . . . When instant messaging, such as MSN Messenger, became all the rage, China asked the firms that made these programmes to automatically block some key-words, making it impossible for Chinese users to talk about the Dalai Lama and Taiwanese independence, for example . . .China keeps a tight grip on what is written and downloaded by users and spends an enormous amount on Internet surveillance equipment and hires armies of informants and cyber-police. It also has the political weight to force the companies in the sector – such as Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems – to do what it wants them to, and all have agreed to censor their search-engines to filter out websites overcritical of the authorities.”

Let me drop in one snippet from the Americas report and in particular an incident in Mexico:

“The shooting death of American cameraman Brad Will, of the Indymedia news agency, while he was filming a 27 October teachers’ demonstration in Oaxaca showed the ready violence of the authorities and continuing failure to punish those responsible for attacks on journalists. Two policemen reportedly close to the state governor who were involved in the killing were freed after being held for a month.”

Reporters Without Borders said its press conference ended on a positive note thanks to the appearance of “freelance reporter and radio producer Sarah Olson (who) successfully resisted a subpoena by a courts martial to confirm the statements made to her by a military officer who had refused deployment to Iraq.”

Sarah, I’m proud to say, took my feature writing class some months ago. I hope you’ll hear more about her experiences here soon.