April 3, 2007 8:30 PM PDT

Freed blogger calls release a victory

SAN FRANCISCO--Although Josh Wolf agreed to release his subpoenaed video footage Tuesday, the longest-incarcerated journalist in U.S. history said his release is a victory for the media.

The video blogger held a press conference Tuesday evening on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall, following his release that day from a federal correctional unit in Dublin, Calif., where he was held for 226 days in contempt of court.

Wolf, 24, read a prepared statement to the small crowd of media and well-wishers. In it, he quoted a dissenting opinion from U.S. v. Caldwell, a 1972 Supreme Court case concerning coercion of a journalist's testimony: "As the years pass, the power of government becomes more and more pervasive. It is a power to suffocate both people and causes. Those in power, whatever their politics, want only to perpetuate it. Now that the fences of the law and the tradition that has protected the press are broken down, the people are the victims. The First Amendment, as I read it, was designed precisely to prevent that tragedy."

Josh Wolf

Wolf was held in contempt of court last year when he refused to hand over video he had shot of an anarchist protest in San Francisco on July 8, 2005. He was released Tuesday after agreeing to publish the unedited video on his blog, without being forced to testify before a grand jury regarding the content of the video, an outcome which he deemed a victory.

He also agreed to answer two questions posed by the prosecution, but only after he reviewed the questions beforehand, he said. The questions were whether he knew the identity of the person who threw an object at the police car during the protest, and whether he could identify the person that Officer Pete Shields, who was injured during the protest, was pursuing at the time. Wolf said he answered "no" to both. He agreed to answer the questions because "there was nothing to be given by them," said.

Answering the prosecution's questions was "a choice that I made, and I do think that it was a good decision," Wolf said.

Though the prosecutor reserved the right to subpoena Wolf again in the future, Wolf said he doesn't believe that is likely.

Click here to Play

Video: Josh Wolf released from prison
Net journalist on his experience and plans for future.

"I don't think the government's going to (do that). We have close to a dozen cameras here...I don't think the government wants that press" again.

Wolf's position as a blogger, and not as a mainstream journalist, determined the tactics that the prosecutor used to try to get him to testify, he said.

The U.S. Attorney's case against him was not just about finding out who set fire to a San Francisco police car during that protest, he said, but was an "ugly political campaign."

However, Wolf was complimentary of his treatment in the federal facility. He said guards treated him "like a human." He elicited laughter from the crowd when he likened the facility to "being in a dorm with an RA."

Wolf appeared relaxed and in good humor throughout the press conference but became emotional when talking about inmates' disconnection with the outside world while in prison.

"When you're incarcerated, your voice is cut off," he said, choking up. Due to that experience, he plans to launch PrisonBlogs.net, which he described as "an old-school, peer-to-peer filing-sharing idea." But instead of music or videos, people will be able to share prisoners' letters through blogs.

A federal shield law for journalists is another cause that Wolf said he intends to pursue. He plans to start a "coalition aimed at preserving a free press" at the site Mediafreedoms.net, he said.

When asked what he will do now that he's free, Wolf said he looks forward "to getting back to committing journalism."

See more CNET content tagged:
journalist, press conference, protest, victory, blogger

16 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Sure he "won"
Well he came to his senses. He must have realized that nobody would pay attention to him if he didn't get out soon, or if he got out just because they had to let him go due to time limits on contempt incarcerations.

Instead, he got his "victory." I guess it's time to go back to being the blogger nobody with the rest of us. Hope he learned some worthwhile work-related skills at the minimum prison/summer camp he was at. The last thing California needs is another hippy/anarchist with a video camera "journalizing" all over professional rioters.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Reply Link Flag
American fascists
The government is truly destroying the freedom it proclamis it's
promulgating overseas (Iraq). Hypocrisy is thick in this country. I
have no love for anarchists, or bloggers who think they're the death
of the "real" press. But the real contempt should be saved for
prosecutors who swear to uphold the constitution and then tear it
to shreds, and to politicians to who put holding on to power above
the interests of the citizens they pretend to represent.
Posted by ewelch (767 comments )
Link Flag
The government cannot define journalists
Anyone who understands the history of journalism in the US knows
that the government does not determine who is a journalist.
Anyone who can write is able to call themselves that. It's just our
government has decided that it's too invencenient to gather
evidence of their own, so now they redefine who is and isn't
journalists, and even now attack journalism itself when politically
convenient. The lawlessness is at the highest level of our
government.
Posted by ewelch (767 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Extrapolate
If you extrapolate that argument, then all of us can be journalists. Further, I've read the constitution, there is no jounalist shield law mentioned. Additionally, it is not only law enforcement officers responsibility to prevent/enforce the law. Us citizens share in the responibility.(Check out a good civics book.) This man protected and shielded those thugs for over a year. This makes him complicit in the action. He should still be in jail.
Posted by suyts (824 comments )
Link Flag
Very self-important
These people who call themselves "journalists" (mainstream or not) think very highly of themselves.
Posted by fafafooey (171 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Regardless...
of the extent that what you wrote is true, it is partly becuase of journalists, and others like them who promote the free exchange of ideas, that you are able to post such a pointless, irrelevant statement.

Hoo-hoo Robin.
Posted by dnotarnicola (6 comments )
Link Flag
And "journalists" like Tim Russert gladly testify for the gov't
Tim Russert gladly testified for the government since it was against a Republican (Scooter Libby). I'm sure the libs think he's a hero for that.

But if he had to testify against a DemocRat, I'm sure he would have either gone on a hunger strike, or if he would have testified he would have been drummed out of the business.

(After all, these so-called "journalists" like Tim Russert, Crissy Matthews, and George Stephonopolus all worked in government for Democrat politicians - now they are "unbiased" journalists.)

Why isn't the NY Times reporter Judith Miller held up as a hero? She went to jail to not testify. Because she wouldn't testify against a Republican. She got no support from the media - and she got fired after she got out of jail.
Posted by fafafooey (171 comments )
Reply Link Flag
why ask why
Everyone knows the media in general is a pack of red liberals with an agenda to undermine decent morals and honest living in modern society.
Just look at the way they defended Clinton's right to commit adultery (literally) in the Oval Office, and they way they attack Bush for doing what he honestly believes is best for US interests in the war on terror. We've got one man so sleazy on a personal level his entire term in office was non-stop scandal after scandal being upheld as a great guy/president, and another who despite being accused of no personal wrong doing vilified as one of the worst men since Hitler.

I'm not here to say who is right or wrong, but there is a slant. A definite slant and it's widely acknowledged.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.