The Spokesman-Review : interns

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Parker: College journalist jailed for refusing subpeona

The latest casualty in the ongoing struggle by journalists to protect their sources, a freelance college-age journalist is in jail tonight following his refusal to turn over videotape of a 2005 G8 protest in San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that Joshua Wolf, 24, will be detained until he hands over the tapes or until the grand jury that is investigating the 2005 protest riot expires in next summer.

This ruling should be alarming to all journalists, but especially student journalists who are not backed by the legal and financial support of news corporations; this isn't the first time authorities have subpoenaed young journalists. Because of such situations, some journalism advocates have called for creation of a national shield law that would protect journalists from being forced to turn their notes, photographs or video over to law enforcement for evidence purposes. The Spokesman-Review's editorial on the subject from this winter is online here.

Another interesting wrinkle is that he has posted some video from the protest on his Web site. Although dark, the footage shows black-clad protestors marching through downtown San Francisco. Ironically, the major destructive act shown on the tape is people dragging newspaper distribution boxes into the street. I guess freedom of the press only applies to media you support.

Alsup makes an interesting but short-sighted point by saying that the event was public and thus Wolf doesn't have a right to control resulting images. However, as journalists point out, turning over information to law enforcement makes journalists seem like an extension of the government. This contradicts journalists' role as a watchdogs who inform citizens about how their representatives are working for them.

Do you support a shield law? Is Alsup correct in stating in his ruling that journalists should be held to the same standards as all citizens, including the president? Let’s get some discussion going about this.


  • The video link does not work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:03 PM  

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