Thursday, June 14, 2007

Journalism: Kevin Epps & Njeri Sims - US Vs Josh Wolf

Josh Wolf was a freelance videographer who often posted his work on blogs. In July of 2005 he captured footage of a protest in San Fransisco. There was some disorder at the protest and the federal government tried to subpoena his equipment and his footage as part of the investigation. Josh believed that his footage didn't show anything significant and that the disorder did not warrant a federal investigation. He believed that the government simply wanted his tape so that they could use it to identify the people at the protest for their homeland security database. He offered to let the judge see the footage but refused to give over the tapes to the government, citing the first amendment and freedom of the press. They said, among other things, that he didn't count as the press and threw him in federal prison on April 1, 2006. He has since been released after posting his footage on the internet.

In all honesty, when I watch his footage, I have a hard time not concluding that some of the anarchy demonstrators were indeed out of line but I think this story still says something important about the state of our country today with it's hysterical fear of terrorists and "subversives". They put a guy in jail to get his camera footage of a protest.

Regardless of which side of this issue people fall on, I think this really opens up some important legal questions: who exactly counts as the press these days now that pretty much anyone can publish on the internet? How far does the first amendment go? Should journalists be able to refuse grand jury subpoenas? Does raw footage of a public event, with no participation from the observer, constitute the creation of some property that can then be protected by the first amendment?

This video was created by two allies of Josh as part of the movement to get him out of jail.

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