U.S. blogger freed after 30 days in jail; case still looms

New York, September 1, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is gratified that a federal appeals court in San Francisco has agreed to release a video blogger on bail while the journalist’s appeal is pending. Joshua Wolf spent 30 days in prison after refusing to turn over to a federal grand jury a videotape of a 2005 protest. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup held Wolf in contempt of court and ordered him to jail on August 1.

On Thursday, a two-judge panel for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Wolf’s appeal was neither frivolous nor intended to delay the proceedings. Wolf was allowed to leave a federal correctional facility in Dublin, Calif., today, The Associated Press reported.

Another 9th Circuit Court panel is now scheduled to rule on Wolf’s refusal to hand over the videotape. If Wolf loses the appeal, he may be returned to prison until the grand jury’s term expires in July 2007.

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 an alleged attempt by protesters to burn a police vehicle. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed briefs in support of Wolf, each arguing that he enjoyed common law protection.

“We welcome the panel’s decision to release Josh Wolf on bail, and we hope this is a sign that the court will see the merits of his argument,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Jailing a journalist for his work is alarming, especially so when it is done by a democratic country.”

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