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National Lawyers Guild Condemns Attack on Free Press

For Immediate Release July 13, 2006

San Francisco video journalist Josh Wolf is being charged with civil
contempt for exercising his first amendment right and refusing to
provide a federal grand jury with video footage he shot at a protest
last summer. The Guild believes that the grand jury is being
improperly used to obtain materials which would normally be protected
under California's Reporter Shield Law. The civil contempt hearing
is scheduled for July 20th at 1 p.m. before Judge William Alsup and
the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) will host a press conference at noon
in front of the Federal Buildingó450 Golden Gate in San Francisco on
that day.
The US Attorney's Office, led by Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey
Finigan, are attempting to force Wolf to testify before the grand
jury and hand over a video tape of a protest that occurred in San
Francisco's Mission District last July.


"My client's political activity and free speech activity in the
Bay Area as a journalist and this subpoena, with its associated
threat of jail time for noncompliance, has an incredible chilling
effect on his and other journalist's freedom to gather and
disseminate information of groups who espouse dissident beliefs,"
said Attorney Jose Luis Fuentes, of the Oakland based Siegel & Yee
firm, who is representing Wolf on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild.


The use of federal grand juries to target journalists and political
activists who are critical of the repressive domestic and
international policies of the United States government is an attack
on democratic free speech activity. The implications of Josh Wolf's
case go well beyond a single journalist or protest. "Like the
Judith Miller case or the BALCO case this is about the government's
ability to take an independent and free press and treat it as an
investigatory arm of the government," said Carlos Villarreal,
Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay
Area. "The people of California have made it clear through our
shield law that we prefer a free press that doesn't have the
government constantly looking over its shoulder."


California's shield law, according to a recent court decision on the
matter, "is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of
news." In that decision, the California Court of Appeals in San Jose
confirmed that the law protected internet bloggers just as it
protected corporate news reporters. Federal protections are not as
strong.


"People protesting or on strike for better wages or marching for
amnesty should feel free to do so in front of journalist's cameras,
just as they should feel free to talk to journalists," said Wolf.
"A free press benefits all of us," he said.


Court documents and past news articles can be found at http://
joshwolf.net/grandjury/

homepage: homepage: http://joshwolf.net/grandjury/