At day 200: will mediation free Josh Wolf?


(Freelance journalist and anarchist Josh Wolf has refused to turn over videotapes of a protest being investigated by a federal grand jury. Online Journalism Review has written about his case; you can read more in Wikipedia. In December I promised to write about his case every Friday until he is freed. Spread the word. – Tom Abate aka MiniMediaGuy).

Keep your fingers crossed. Josh Wolf was to have started a mediation Thursday. I may be a bit out of the loop on the outcome as I am attending a conference (New Communications Forum) and preoccupied with that. But after 200 days this process stikes me as an encouraging sign that the government is seeking a way to let Josh free without losing face.

A press release about the mediation issued by Reporters Without Borders says in part:

“Joseph Spero, the judge named as mediator, should bear in mind that journalists are not meant to be police auxiliaries or informers . . . Wolf’s detention has been used to put pressure on him and it is time for it to stop.”

Liz Wolf Spada, who is Josh’s mother, sent out a note “asking you to just keep Josh in (your) thoughts and prayers.”

Amen to that, Liz. Because my own time is short and also because I see no point in beating the government over the head when it may finally be starting to listen, let me close with a few thoughts from Josh Wolf himself. They are culled from an interview done a few weeks ago by Pacifica radio host Amy Goodman, who posted a transcript of the interview on her Democracy Now website. Here are two excerpts:

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you refusing to comply?

JOSH WOLF: Well, there’s a number of reasons. It’s been viewed that the tape is central to the issue, but it’s also the testimony. Essentially, what the government wants me to do, as we can tell, is to identify civil dissidents who were attending this march, who were in mask and clearly did not want to be identified, but whose identities I may know some of, as their contact that I’ve been following in documenting civil dissent in the San Francisco Bay Area for some two-and-a-half years now.

(Break here)

AMY GOODMAN: Josh, in a January 29th court filing, federal prosecutors said that it’s in your “imagination” that you’re a journalist. . . Your response?

JOSH WOLF: I think it’s a very scary idea that the US Attorney, the Justice Department, the government prosecution feels that they can determine who is and isn’t a journalist. I think that’s the first step towards state-sanctioned journalism, and I think it also is indicative of a world almost a 1984 Orwellian world that I don’t think we want to live in. As far as whether or not I’m a journalist in my imagination, the New York Times has said I’m a journalist. The Society of Professional Journalists has awarded me an award as a journalist. Countless media outlets have said I’m a journalist. So if it’s my imagination and other journalists’ imagination, then who decides what is and isn’t a journalist? The government?

Late Thursday, this message came out from Josh Wolf’s mom:

“Mediation was not successful. Josh is back in jail. That is all I know. Needless to say I am very discouraged . . . Peace, Liz.”