Judge jails freelancer over videotape

New York, August 2, 2006—A U.S. judge in San Francisco ordered a video blogger to jail after holding him in contempt for refusing to turn over to a federal grand jury a videotape of a 2005 protest. Ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ordered Joshua Wolf held without bail and denied a stay pending an appeal.

Wolf’s tape documents clashes between demonstrators and San Francisco police during a June 2005 protest by anarchists over a Group of 8 economic conference. The grand jury is investigating possible criminal activity, including a protester attempting to burn a police vehicle. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed amicus briefs in support of Wolf, each arguing that he enjoyed common law protection.

Wolf’s attorney, Jose Luis Fuentes, said his client will appeal the decision to deny bail to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Wolf could be jailed for up to 11 months, until the grand jury expires in July 2007.

Wolf, 24, sold footage of the protest to San Francisco television stations and posted it on his Web site, The Associated Press reported. Investigators are seeking the portions of his videotape that were not broadcast.

“We’re extremely concerned by the jailing of journalist Joshua Wolf and are monitoring developments closely,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “While we recognize that Wolf has legal protections not available to journalists in many other parts of the world, his jailing is alarming precisely because democratic countries rarely take such a drastic step.”

In a note posted by the journalist’s mother, Liz Wolf-Spada, on Wolf’s blog (http://www.joshwolf.net/blog) reported today that he is in Dublin federal prison in the East Bay area of San Francisco.