September 02, 2006

Josh Wolf Update: Interview with Jackson West

Ever since last week’s Hot Air video, it’s become clear that there are many misperceptions about Josh Wolf’s case. One myth is that Josh is not a journalist. The argument is that he’s just a guy with a video camera. And if anyone with a blog can be a journalist, then everyone is a journalist. Well, someone thinks Josh is a journalist.

“The Society of Professional Journalists put up $30,000 on Friday to defray the legal expenses of Josh Wolf, the San Francisco freelance journalist who has been in jail since Aug. 1 for refusing to turn over videos of a political demonstration to a federal grand jury.”

We did a brief interview with Jackson West to dispel some of these myths. Jackson has been trading snail mail letters with Josh…which allows Josh to keep blogging.

Putting politics aside, many people don’t seem to realize how the case relates to each of us. Saheli Datta said it best:

To spell out for people what’s wrong with this picture—if journalists have to hand over their outtakes and their notes and negatives, if every camera–even a journalists’s camera–at every protest or gathering automatically becomes federal property, nobobdy will talk to us, and nobody will let us take pictures of their gatherings and videotape their opinions. And it’s not because people know they’re doing something illegal. It’s because people know that even legal things can be held against them, and they don’t want to have to deal with the incovnenience of being on a mistaken no-fly list or proving their innocence. And if journalists are not allowed to check things out and write about them, independent of the government, you, the citizen, won’t know anyone else’s side of the story.


  • Josh Wolf attended an Anarchist protest last July in San Francisco. He published a video on his blog that got picked up by the local media since a policeman was injured during the protest.
  • He sent these TV stations a bill (and was paid) for using his video without his permission. Local authorities sued and then dropped their case to get Josh’s raw tapes.
  • Since there was also an attempt to set a SF police car on fire, the Federal Government says it has a right to get Josh’s tapes because Federal money is used for local police equipment(a minor sum). Josh denies any coverage of the incident and refuses to hand over the raw video tapes, citing his rights as a journalist.
  • Josh’s lawyer offers to let the judge privately scan the tapes for evidence of the attempted burning of a police car. The judge refuses.
  • The Federal Judge throws Josh in jail for contempt where Josh will remain till July 2007, or hands over the tapes and testifies in front of a Grand Jury.

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