From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: San Francisco | Media Activism & Independent Media
SF Video Journalist Held In Contempt
by reposted
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 1:00 PM
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KCBS) -- A free-lance journalist has been jailed for refusing to give a grand jury notes and video footage shot during a protest.
Josh Wolf captured portions of a demonstration in San Francisco’s Mission District on July 8, 2005 against the G8 Summit then taking place in Scotland. His attorney argued that Wolf was protected by the first amendment and that his obligation to protect confidential sources outweighed the grand jury’s need to examine the video.

Several civil liberties and journalism advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders, and the National Lawyers Guild have criticized the U.S. Attorney's office for improperly using the grand jury. They believe Wolf's case is part of growing trend of federal prosecutors forcing journalists to disclose confidential sources and unpublished material.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has scheduled a vote for later today on a resolution that would condemn the actions of the federal government in building its case.
by more
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 1:22 PM
SAN FRANCISCO - A freelance journalist was jailed here Tuesday for refusing to turn over unpublished videotapes to a federal grand jury investigating a possible arson attempt on a police car during a 2005 anarchist demonstration.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the detention of Joshua Wolf, 24, until he relinquishes the tapes or until the grand jury's term expires next July.


Wolf's lawyer, Jose Luis Fuentes, said he'll appeal and will ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to order bail.
by more
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 2:55 PM
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

(08-01) 12:59 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A freelance journalist was jailed today for refusing to give videotapes to a federal grand jury that show an anarchist protest in San Francisco in which a police car was allegedly set on fire.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup found Josh Wolf in contempt of court for failing to comply with a subpoena that the grand jury issued in February for tapes Wolf made of the July 2005 demonstration in the Mission District. Wolf posted some of the videos on his Web site -- -- and sold that footage to local television stations. Federal prosecutors demanded the rest of the tapes, saying they might contain evidence of attempted arson.

Prosecutors contend that burning a police car is a federal crime because the San Francisco Police Department receives federal funds. Wolf and his lawyers accuse the government of manipulating the case to sidestep California's shield law, which allows journalists to withhold unpublished material and confidential sources from prosecutors.
by Sludge
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 4:57 PM
I want to express my support for the brave stand Josh is taking in the face of judicial abuse. Josh is standing up for every person by refusing to be bullied by the thuggs who administer our "laws".

Josh knows nvery well, that our "Rights" pretty much vanish when we set foot in the halls of "justice". The enforcers commit crimes against people and are backed up agressively by the judicial bureaucrats who would supress any dissent, any expression of disgust or rage with the criminal acts of the government and its enforcers. (I have witnessed the police lying on the stand several times now, and the judges, accepting the lies even when they are exposed in the courtroom. Please go sit through a court session or serve on a jury... it's a heck of a free education, you won't want to go back there as a defendant without an expensive lawyer).

Josh has a concept of freedom, and only a paper of rights to "protect" him from the abuse of the system and its brutes who hide behind robes and badges. (remember.... the Constitution is "Just a Piece of Paper" to the Chimp In Chief and the federal judges he appoints.)

Bush has tried to convince each person to spy on every other. The administration sneaks, spies, infiltrates and disrupts our peaceful efforts to express our opinions, our thoughts and our vision for a better world. I guess a better world, a freer world, a more honest world is threatening to the lying spies who hold us down to pick our pockets, steal our rights and take away our limited choices, to enrich or empower themselves.

I support Josh in his stand and encourage any freedom loving person to review his case, to understand that administrative game being played to force Josh to spy for the brute squad, the jailors and the thieves.

Join the Struggle, the least thing you can do is never to cooperate with the spies, police and thugs.


by more
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 6:21 PM
POSTED: 2:59 pm PDT August 1, 2006
UPDATED: 4:37 pm PDT August 1, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO -- A freelance video journalist was jailed Tuesday for refusing to give a grand jury his unpublished footage from a July 2005 protest in which anarchists were suspected of vandalizing a police car.

Joshua Wolf, 24, sold the footage to San Francisco television stations and posted it on his Web site. He could remain behind bars until next summer, when the grand jury investigating the incident is due to expire. A San Francisco police officer was also injured in the melee.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said there is no federal law shielding journalists from participating in grand jury investigations. The judge sided with prosecutors who suspect the unpublished material may reveal who was behind the incident, part of an anarchist-led protest over the G-8 international economic conference last year in Scotland.

"This is direct evidence of what happened," Alsup said.

As marshals went to remove Wolf from the courtroom, Alsup said he wasn't jailing Wolf to punish him. "The purpose of this is to get you to change your mind," the judge said.

Wolf's lawyer, Jose Luis Fuentes, said for Wolf to turn over the unpublished information would amount to him becoming "an arm of the government." Because of the subpoena, Fuentes said the underground groups Wolf chronicles are denying him access.
by .put
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 7:36 PM
What if another war breaks out this year and a videographer is required.
For anyone's curiosity, here is a published photo of the police car that was supposedly set on fire. One may see that the vehicle is parked on top of one of the unusual large white signs that had been carried by protesters. There is some plastic smoke in the air from the foam material, which seems to be caused by the heat of the car's engine. It isn't a paper substance that could be easily lighted with a match. Plastic/foam does not produce a flame very easily, but will emit smoke if heated by touching a hot object. The car was not set on fire, and nothing more dramatic than this occurred.
I would like to know why they're not subpoenaeing him in order to deduce which unknown person in the crowd hit a police officer in the head down the block. That was the violent event of the evening.
by US courts suppress free speech
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 9:41 PM
You know what, if someone can get him set up via Paypal it would make it super easy to donate and help him get out of this bullshit. If anyone has a link, please post it. Our being able to videotape cops violating our rights is not negotiable.
by but it was refused
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 9:43 PM
so he is stuck. well, someone from the legal team could correct me, but the above is what i was told by someone from the legal team.

on his website, there is a paypal link:

by national news
Wednesday Aug 2nd, 2006 9:46 AM
New York Times

Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: August 2, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 1 — A freelance journalist and blogger was jailed on Tuesday after refusing to turn over video he took at an anticapitalist protest here last summer and after refusing to testify before a grand jury looking into accusations that crimes were committed at the protest.

The freelancer, Josh Wolf, 24, was taken into custody just before noon after a hearing in front of Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court. Found in contempt, Mr. Wolf was later moved to a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., and could be imprisoned until next summer, when the grand jury term expires, said his lawyer, Jose Luis Fuentes.

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors subpoenaed Mr. Wolf to testify before a grand jury and turn over video from the demonstration, held in the Mission District on July 8, 2005. The protest, tied to a Group of 8 meeting of world economic leaders in Scotland, ended in a clash between demonstrators and the San Francisco police, with one officer sustaining a fractured skull.

A smoke bomb or a firework was also put under a police car, and investigators are looking into whether arson was attempted on a government-financed vehicle.

Mr. Wolf, who posted some of the edited video on his Web site,, and sold some of it to local television stations, met with investigators, who wanted to see the raw video. But Mr. Wolf refused to hand over the tapes, arguing that he had the right as a journalist to shield his sources.


by more
Wednesday Aug 2nd, 2006 11:10 AM
Journalist Jailed Over Protest Footage
Freelance Video Journalist in S.F. Jailed for Refusing to Give Grand Jury Protest Footage
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - A freelance video journalist was jailed Tuesday for refusing to give a grand jury his unsold footage from a 2005 protest in which anarchists were suspected of vandalizing a police car.

Joshua Wolf, 24, could remain behind bars until next summer, when the grand jury investigating the incident is due to expire.

Wolf had sold footage of the protest to San Francisco television stations and posted it on his Web site. Investigators are seeking portions of his videotape that haven't been broadcast.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said there is no federal law shielding journalists from participating in grand jury investigations. The judge sided with prosecutors who suspect the footage may reveal who was behind the melee, part of an anarchist-led protest over the G-8 international economic conference last year in Scotland. A San Francisco police officer also was injured.

"This is direct evidence of what happened," Alsup said.

Alsup said he wasn't jailing Wolf to punish him. "The purpose of this is to get you to change your mind," the judge said as U.S. marshals removed Wolf from the courtroom.

Wolf's lawyer, Jose Luis Fuentes, said that relinquishing the footage to a grand jury would be tantamount to his client becoming "an arm of the government." Because of the subpoena, Fuentes said, the underground groups Wolf chronicles are denying him access.
by international news
Wednesday Aug 2nd, 2006 11:12 AM
Guardian UK
Wednesday August 2 2006

And so it came to pass... The forecast in a posting below, Journalist facing jail over video of protest, came true and young Josh Wolf was marched off to the slammer from a San Francisco court. The judge told him that there is no federal law shielding journalists from participating in grand jury investigations. He agreed with prosecutors who want Wolf to hand over his video footage of a violent anti-G8 demonstration, which he refuses to do. The judge said he wasn't jailing Wolf to punish him but to change his mind. Wolf could remain in jail until next summer, when the grand jury investigating the incident is due to expire.

The demonstration that led to the video footage took place in the Mission last summer, while the G8 summit was occurring in Scotland. Wolf himself said in a prepared statement released yesterday, “People protesting or on strike for better wages or marching for amnesty should feel free to do so in front of a journalist’s cameras, just as they should feel free to talk to journalists. A free press benefits all of us.”

Another attorney for Wolf, Jose Luis Fuentes, has pointed out that the San Francisco Police Department to date has not stepped forward with any description of damages or subsequent costs related to the allegedly vandalized cop car.
by repost
Thursday Aug 3rd, 2006 1:21 PM
Free Josh Wolf
Thursday, August 3, 2006

JOSH WOLF is an imperfect martyr for freedom of the press. The 24-year-old freelance journalist from San Francisco makes no pretense of being fair and balanced. He is a self-proclaimed anarchist. Advocacy, not objectivity, appears to be his driving motivation. "The revolution will be televised," his Web site promises.

But the First Amendment was not crafted just to protect the mainstream media. One of its clear aims was to allow journalists to do their jobs without government regulation or interference.

It's hard to think of a more basic measure of a free country than the ability of people to demonstrate against government policies -- and the freedom of journalists to edit and disseminate their accounts of such events.

Wolf was recording a demonstration by a group of anarchists on July 8, 2005. The demonstration turned unruly, with some of the protesters vandalizing buildings and scuffling with police. Wolf posted some of the videos on his Web site.

Federal prosecutors are demanding that Wolf turn over the outtakes -- claiming to be specifically interested in the attempted burning of a police car.

Wolf's refusal to turn over his unpublished material would seem to be covered by the state's shield law.

However, federal prosecutors are arguing that the sliding of a burning mattress under a police cruiser constitutes a federal crime because the San Francisco Police Department receives money from the U.S. government. Yes, the argument is a stretch.

But the really ominous element of the government's argument is the notion that a journalist can be compelled to turn over raw material -- be it notes or video outtakes -- at the government's whim. If that standard can apply to Josh Wolf, it can be used against CNN, NBC, Fox News or any independent journalist who is conducting an investigation or trying to record a chaotic event. Journalists are not agents of the government.

This case comes at a particularly precarious time for the First Amendment. The Bush administration has become increasingly aggressive about pursuing and prosecuting leaks -- including The Chronicle's publication of grand jury testimony about an investigation into performance-enhancing drugs at the highest level of sports. On Tuesday, a federal court cleared the way for prosecutors to inspect the telephone records of two New York Times reporters in an effort to identify their confidential sources.

Today, Wolf sits in a federal prison cell, facing the possibility of staying there until the grand jury's term expires in July 2007.

He may not have the clout or journalism credentials of some of the other government targets, but Josh Wolf is no less entitled to First Amendment protection. Each day he remains incarcerated represents another small dent in this nation's basic freedoms.

Page B - 6
by huffpo
Thursday Aug 3rd, 2006 2:30 PM
Josh Wolf is a new federal prison inmate, and he could be locked up until next summer. His crime? Shooting video at an anti-G8 summit protest in San Francisco and refusing to turn the tape over to the cops or testify to a federal grand jury investigating a riot that developed out of the protest.


Josh Wolf is 24 years old. He doesn’t work for the NBC News or the New York Times or any other deep-pocketed, highly recognizable corporate entity that society would automatically accept as a legitimate news-gathering organization. Katie Couric he’s not. Rather, he’s one of the critical foot soldiers in a vital army of news reporters out there in our midst trying to chronicle what’s going on in the world and scratch out a meager living with his work. In other words, Josh Wolf is a freelance journalist.


Write the judge who locked him up, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco. Contribute to the Society of Professional Journalists legal defense fund; it helps pay his legal fees. And as my friend and colleague Wes “Scoop” Nisker has been saying since our days in the radio newsroom at KSAN in San Francisco: “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”

Free Josh Wolf!
Friday Aug 4th, 2006 10:05 AM
August 4, 2006 9:00 AM PDT

The story of Josh Wolf, who this week became the first known blogger to be jailed for refusing to hand over source materials to federal officials, has ignited passionate online discussions about free speech and the roles and rights of citizen journalists and their governing officials.

We happened to have met Wolf, who in addition to being a San Francisco-based freelance journalist and a filmmaker, is also a leader in the growing video blogging movement, which he sees as a "media revolution" that gives people "a viable alternative to commercial TV."

Friday Aug 4th, 2006 10:15 AM

Josh Wolf is the first blogger to be targeted by federal authorities for not cooperating with a grand jury. Are the courts trying to send a message to new media?

Posted Thursday, Aug. 03, 2006

Before there was YouTube's crush of do-it-yourself video online, Josh Wolf was busy taking media into his own hands. As one of the Internet's earliest videobloggers, Wolf thrust himself onto the front lines of citizen journalism, uploading his politically spiked, home-grown content onto While bypassing old media gatekeepers — like editors and programming schedules — Wolf, 24, gained unprecedented access to the Web's global stage, but he also fast won notoriety for his attempts to democratize the media. Last year, Wolf earned the wrath of Al Gore's youth cable channel, Current TV, when he criticized the new station's hiring practices along with its video submission policies on his blog. In protest, he started the Rise Up! Network, a non-profit alternative media site, where anyone can feature his or her own video work and retain exclusive rights.

Now the videoblogger is enmeshed in a new digital media controversy. On Tuesday, Wolf was thrown into federal prison for refusing to testify before a U.S. grand jury and for failing to hand over unpublished video footage he shot during a raucous clash on the streets between San Francisco police officers and anti-G8 protesters last year. Wolf posted some of the video on his blog, and some clips were aired on TV newscasts that later paid Wolf for the footage. But the feds are demanding to see everything that wasn't made public. They allege that the unused portion of Wolf's video may show the patrol car being set afire — part of a federal crime, the government asserts. Wolf denies there is an attempted arson on his videotape. The feds say they have jurisdiction over the case because the police car is partly U.S. government property since the S.F.P.D. receives federal anti-terrorism money.

"Not only does this logic seem silly," Wolf told TIME in June after receiving his final subpoena, "but if unchallenged it will have a deleterious effect on the state protections afforded to many journalists, both independent and those that are part of the established media."

by Democracy Now!
Friday Aug 4th, 2006 10:22 AM
Headlines for August 3, 2006

And in San Francisco, an independent video journalist has been jailed for refusing to turn over footage of a protest subpoenaed by a grand jury. Josh Wolf could remain in jail until he hands over the tape or until the investigation is concluded. Prosecutors maintain Wolf’s footage shows demonstrators setting a police vehicle on fire. Wolf says no such images exist but will not hand over the tape in accordance with his First Amendment rights.
by Peter Scheer
Wednesday Aug 30th, 2006 9:08 PM
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A freelance documentary filmmaker is in jail in Dublin (Alameda County) for refusing to comply with a subpoena to turn over to federal prosecutors the outtakes of his filming of a 2005 street demonstration that turned violent. At the same time, two Chronicle reporters are packing their bags for jail while they appeal contempt judgments for refusing to reveal to federal prosecutors their sources for evidence given the grand jury in the BALCO investigation.

If I were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or state Chief Justice Ronald George, I would be deeply troubled by these developments -- not only because of the First Amendment issues at stake, which are huge, but because these federal actions against journalists in California represent a wholesale usurpation of state sovereignty. The Bush administration, which has been justly criticized for attempting to enhance executive power at the expense of Congress, is now eviscerating states' rights in order to expand the power of the federal government.

William Rehnquist, the late conservative chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court -- and intellectual champion of American "federalism" -- is no doubt turning over in his grave.

California, like the District of Columbia and every other state except Wyoming, has enacted a "shield law" to protect the news media's independence from government and to assure public access to information about wrongdoing in high places. (Memo to media: Stay the hell out of Wyoming.) California's Shield Law, enacted both as a statute and constitutional amendment, protects the press from subpoenas demanding access to confidential news sources and unpublished information. State shield laws, however, don't apply in federal proceedings -- and the federal government has no shield law.

The U.S. Justice Department, in these two California cases and others, had a choice to make: It could defer to the nearly unanimous judgment of the states, or it could decide -- states' rights be damned -- that the federal government would insist on enforcement of subpoenas that would be void or illegal in nearly all state courts. It chose the latter.

So, Josh Wolf, the freelance filmmaker whose unused digital film California voters clearly meant to protect from compulsory judicial disclosure, is in jail. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, The Chronicle reporters who wrote about the BALCO case, will soon be in federal detention unless the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit can be persuaded to change course.

The U.S. Justice Department's enforcement proceedings don't just undermine a valid state policy, they nullify it. This is so because reporters and their sources have no way of knowing, at the time of an interview with a source or the filming of a news event, whether a subpoena will issue from a California state court -- in which case it can be safely ignored -- or from a federal court, in which case it will be enforced through fines, jail or other sanctions. Because the only safe strategy is to assume that one could end up in front of a federal judge, the state shield law is effectively voided.

To appreciate the extent of federal usurpation of state authority, imagine that the feds were disregarding, not state shield laws, but the attorney-client privilege (which is also a creature of state law). The reason for the privilege, which is recognized in all states, is to encourage people to seek legal advice and to fully disclose relevant information to their lawyers, who are bound to secrecy.

If the U.S. Justice Department took the position that the attorney-client privilege did not apply in federal proceedings, most legal clients, not being able to predict where and how their communications with their lawyer might be sought, would behave as though the states' attorney-client privilege did not exist. They would not seek legal advice. They would not speak openly with their lawyer.

The feds' takeover of state sovereignty is especially egregious in the Wolf case. The street demonstration that was caught on Wolf's video camera involved self-styled anarchists who, in a July 8, 2005, rampage through downtown San Francisco, destroyed property, resisted arrest and assaulted and injured at least one San Francisco police officer. The persons responsible most certainly should be prosecuted -- in state court by state prosecutors and under state law.

How did this quintessentially state law matter become a big federal case? According to their pleadings in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors assert federal criminal jurisdiction based on damage to a police car, which had been purchased partly with federal assistance -- I'm not joking. The damage to the police car, which is disputed, may have been limited to a broken taillight! Bad enough that California's authority is neutered by the feds. Far worse that it is neutered in a case in which a genuine federal interest is nonexistent -- indeed, where the putative federal interest is, patently, a pretext for an end-run around California's shield law.

It's time that the federal courts wised up and put an end to this. The appeals of the Wolf and Chronicle cases to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals provide an opportunity for the federal judiciary to rein in the Bush Justice Department, reassert the primacy of state law in the area of evidentiary privilege, and highlight the importance of a news media that is -- and is seen as -- independent of government investigators.

Peter Scheer, a journalist and lawyer, is executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition.

Page B - 7