Good news for freedom of the press

According to several reports, Josh Wolf is either about to be released from prison or has already been released. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the young video blogger who was jailed for contempt of court — for refusing to turn over a video he made of a G8 Summit demonstration that turned violent — and wound up serving more than seven months, the longest a journalist has ever been jailed for contempt.

snipshot_d41b6x1601pc.jpgThe Center for Media and Democracy has a statement written by Josh, and as part of the deal with prosecutors the video blogger has posted a copy of the video he took of the demonstration on his blog. He writes: “During the course of this saga I have repeatedly offered to allow a judge to be the arbiter over whether or not my video material has any evidentiary value. Today, you the public have the opportunity to be the judge and I am confident you will see, as I do, that there is nothing of value in this unpublished footage.” He adds:

“I had wanted to reveal to you, the public, how ridiculous and without merit this matter is, but could not publish this tape until I had received assurances from the US Attorney that it would not be considered partial compliance and strengthen their claims that I might eventually be coerced.”

Watching the tape, it’s striking how incredibly innocuous it is — it starts with some young anarchists, the earnest type that anyone who has been to university has likely encountered, expounding their somewhat naieve views to a handful of onlookers, and then there is a quiet and sparsely attended march. The police show up, but there is little actual violence. Newspaper boxes are dragged into the street, but that’s about it.

At the end, it’s night-time and a police officer appears to be sitting on a man lying on the sidewalk. Officers arrive and tell the crowd to disperse (according to the federal grand jury that ordered Wolf to turn over the tape and testify, an officer was hit on the head and a police car was damaged by fire, neither of which are shown in the video). Worth seven months in prison? It’s hard to see how.

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