Disappointment as mediation fails to free U.S. video blogger

New York, March 9, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is disappointed that a freelance video blogger will remain in jail after a court-appointed arbitrator was unable to mediate a settlement that could have led to the journalist’s release. Joshua Wolf has spent 198 days in jail, the longest incarceration of a journalist in U.S. history, for refusing to provide the court with a videotape of a 2005 protest.

“We’re disappointed these talks have thus far failed to lead to the release of Joshua Wolf,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “There is no useful purpose in continuing to imprison this journalist.”

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. One police officer was injured, and some protestors allegedly tried to set a police cruiser on fire. A federal grand jury is investigating the alleged crimes. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup held Wolf in contempt of court and ordered him jailed on August 1. Wolf was briefly released on bail pending appeal but was ordered back to jail in September.

Last month, a federal judge appointed U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero to arbitrate the dispute. Wolf’s attorney, Martin Garbus, had asked the judge to consider privately viewing the videotape to determine whether the contempt charges against Wolf could be dismissed.

Spero said in a court filing that four hours of negotiations on Thursday had failed to reach a settlement, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He said he would consult with lawyers in the case as to whether to schedule another meeting. Wolf could remain in jail until July when the grand jury’s term expires.

Freelance writer Vanessa Leggett, who was jailed in 2001, had been the longest incarcerated U.S. journalist. Leggett spent 168 days behind bars in Texas for refusing to disclose to a federal grand jury her research and sources for a book she was writing on a murder trial.