Huh. Almost nine months later, after a huge amount of media reportage, both local, regional and national, in the US and elsewhere, a grassroots campaign, and the recognition and championing by a number of journalistic and other media organisations — including something called a “union” — with regards his case, The Age finally reports on the trials and tribulations of vblogger Josh Wolf. Well, sorta… it’s republished a massively edited version — a little over 100 words — of an article in the Los Angeles Times by Joe Mozingo, which, among other things, notes his release.
Blogger free after deal
The Age [Los Angeles Times]
April 5, 2007
A VIDEOGRAPHER who spent 7½ months in prison for refusing to turn over footage of a San Francisco street demonstration to a federal grand jury has been [“was”] released from custody after striking a deal to publish his outtakes on the internet [“Web”].
Under the deal [“agreement”], Josh Wolf, 24, will not have to testify or identify people shown in the video.
The US Attorney is investigating who hit an officer on the head with a pipe [“the wounding of a police officer, who was struck in the head with a pipe”] during the demonstration, as well as an alleged attempt to set fire to a police car.
Footage released on Tuesday on Wolf’s website [“The video footage Wolf released Tuesday morning on his website”] did not show either incident.
The blogger stepped free after 226 days at the federal prison in Dublin, California.
[The LA Times article continues:]
On Tuesday afternoon, Wolf was released after spending 226 days at the federal prison in Dublin, about 30 miles east of San Francisco. He served a longer term than any journalist in U.S. history has served for refusing to reveal unpublished material or sources.
[A key fact, completely unremarked upon by The Age or any other Australian infotainment source.]
“I feel really good, a bit overwhelmed,” he said in an interview via cellphone, as he drove to a news conference in San Francisco. “The pace of life is so slow in prison, I feel like a kid from the country coming to the city, even though I live here.”
All along Wolf had insisted that the video did not contain anything that would be relevant to the investigation, but he also said he had a constitutional right as a journalist not to cooperate with authorities and become “an arm of law enforcement.” Several media advocacy groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, supported his stance and called for his release. The U.S. attorney argued that Wolf was not a journalist and did not have that right.
In November, with his appeals exhausted, Wolf agreed to release the video as long as he did not have to testify. But the U.S. attorney wanted his testimony, he said.
On Feb. 12, Wolf was interviewed by the syndicated left-of-center radio program Democracy Now and said he received hundreds of letters of support. The next day, U.S. District Judge William Alsup referred the case to a magistrate for mediation. On Monday, Wolf and the government came to the current agreement.
Wolf released the video and answered two questions under penalty of perjury. He was asked whether he saw anyone throw anything at a police car and whether he saw the person whom San Francisco Police Officer Peter Shields was trying to take into custody when he was struck in the head. Shields suffered a skull fracture. “My answer is no,” he replied to both.
In court papers, the U.S. attorney requested that Alsup release Wolf from confinement but said the government would not be precluded from issuing another grand jury subpoena to Wolf in the future.
Wolf continued to insist that he was acting as a journalist, not a participant, on July 8, 2005, when he set out to film the anarchist demonstration. “The purpose of me going out that night was to go out and document a protest that would be ignored by the establishment media,” he said.
Wolf’s incarceration came as a spate of journalists faced prison time for refusing to comply with jury subpoenas. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify in the CIA leak investigation. And two San Francisco Chronicle reporters were facing prison time for refusing to testify about who leaked confidential documents to them in the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative sports doping probe. The threat was dropped when a defense attorney admitted that he had been the source and pleaded guilty to contempt of court and obstruction of justice.
Although California has a shield law to protect journalists from testifying in state court, there is no such protection in federal court. The federal government prosecuted the Wolf case on the basis that the victim — the San Francisco Police Department — received federal funding.
Wolf said he kept his sense of humor in prison. He said that he gained muscle mass by working out with Barry Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who has been in prison on contempt of court charges for refusing to testify in the BALCO probe. “He had everyone working out.”
News media advocates hailed Wolf’s release. “I give him a lot of credit,” said Kelli Sager, a media attorney in Los Angeles. “Without the backing of a major news organization, he went to jail to stand up for a principle that should be important for all reporters.”
This question of political principle and journalistic ethics, and their general absence in the state/corporate sector, is one of the issues which has been raised by Wolf’s case: in the US, by Wolf’s imprisonment; and in Australia, by both his legal and political persecution and the non-coverage his story has received.
Corporate radio and TV, which dominates the market, only very rarely pretends to provide consumers with something other than ‘entertainment’, while the ostensibly ‘public’ or state sector — with a small number of exceptions, principally in the community sector — often functions as little more than a less well resourced version of its corporate equivalent/s. As for press, Melbourne — with a population of around 3.7 million people — has just two dailies: Fairfax Corporation‘s The Age, a ‘liberal’ broadsheet principally published for the benefit of and as a marketing vehicle for yuppies, and News Corporation‘s Herald Sun, a reactionary tabloid published for the benefit of the lower end of the market. Both have until now scrupulously avoided making any mention of Wolf’s case.
In the case of the Herald Sun, given its overall market and political orientation, this is not surprising. But Wolf’s stance on the issue of active collaboration between the police and the fourth estate highlights The Age‘s own engagement in a political witchhunt following G20, an endeavour which actually trumped that of its downmarket competitor in terms of the fervor with which it was pursued. Thus the photos of ‘Melbourne’s Most Wanted’, of which only The Age and Crimestoppers published the full assortment, have remained in circulation on The Age website since their initial publication two and a half months ago, on January 18. And while since then Crimestoppers has removed the majority of images of ‘persons of interest’ police provided to the media (and as, in the words of The Age, the police “tighten the net on rioters wanted over the violent G20 protests in Melbourne”), The Age has not. In fact, The Age continues to publish all 28 images of the really interesting people police wish to have a yarn with.
Oh, and speaking of protest, Peter Gordon of Slater & Gordon has written a defence of his business’s conduct in relation to S11, claiming, among other things, that the business received less than half what was originally attributed to it in legal fees. And speaking of money, Slater & Gordon has released its prospectus, and The Age [AAP] reports that the business is interested in persons willing to invest $35 million: “Of the capital raised from the IPO, $15.4 million will go to an acquisition program and marketing and advertising. Slater & Gordon is forecasting revenue of $58.7 million for fiscal 2007 and a net profit after tax of $9.1 million. The offer opens on April 11 and closes on April 27.” The Australian, on the other hand, reports that institutional investors have flocked to Slater & Gordon. Further, “The prospectus reveals that Mr Grech, rather than senior partner Peter Gordon, has the largest stake in the company. Mr Grech holds 16.5 per cent of the firm, followed by Mr Gordon on 16.3 per cent, Paul Henderson on 15 per cent and four others. The firm predicts revenue growth of 28 per cent this financial year followed by 12 per cent next year. This is based on several factors including the recent acquisition of eight smaller firms, diversification and 20 per cent annual growth in non-personal injury fee revenue.”
So as someone once scribbled on a wall in Paris:
- Pat Murphy, ‘San Francisco reporter asserts right to remain silent before federal grand jury’, San Francisco Sentinel, June 16, 2006 | Ain’t It Grand? (July 19, 2006) | Josh Wolf : Integrity = Jail (August 8, 2006) | Taking a punt with Josh Wolf (August 24, 2006) | Josh Outta Jail! (September 1, 2006) | “You will submit!” US court says to Wolf (September 14, 2006) | US Political Prisoners (November 27, 2006) | Wolf to remain caged (February 1, 2007) | Josh Wolf is #1! (February 9, 2007) | Free Free! Free Josh! (February 16, 2007) | Josh Wolf and ‘The vanishing art of standing firm’ (February 20, 2007) …