Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blogger Jailed For Refusing To Turn Over Video

In what is apparently the first case of a blogger being jailed for refusing to reveal sources, a San Francisco man will be staying behind bars until a grand jury finishes its term next summer or until the blogger reconsiders his decision not to cooperate with law enforcement.

A freelance journalist and blogger was jailed on Tuesday after refusing to turn over video he took at an anticapitalist protest here last summer and after refusing to testify before a grand jury looking into accusations that crimes were committed at the protest.

The freelancer, Josh Wolf, 24, was taken into custody just before noon after a hearing in front of Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court. Found in contempt, Mr. Wolf was later moved to a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., and could be imprisoned until next summer, when the grand jury term expires, said his lawyer, Jose Luis Fuentes.

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors subpoenaed Mr. Wolf to testify before a grand jury and turn over video from the demonstration, held in the Mission District on July 8, 2005. The protest, tied to a Group of 8 meeting of world economic leaders in Scotland, ended in a clash between demonstrators and the San Francisco police, with one officer sustaining a fractured skull.

A smoke bomb or a firework was also put under a police car, and investigators are looking into whether arson was attempted on a government-financed vehicle.

Mr. Wolf, who posted some of the edited video on his Web site,, and sold some of it to local television stations, met with investigators, who wanted to see the raw video. But Mr. Wolf refused to hand over the tapes, arguing that he had the right as a journalist to shield his sources....

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said that although the jailing of journalists had become more common, Mr. Wolf's case was the first she had heard of in which a blogger had been pursued and eventually jailed by federal authorities.

"There is a tendency on the part of the prosecutors to go aggressively after people not perceived to have a big gun behind them," Ms. Kirtley said. "They are the most vulnerable links in the chain."

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