Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Josh Wolf: All Empires Must Fall

Title: All Empires Must Fall
Director: Josh Wolf
Sources: This URL, which goes directly to the video. More portions of the film have been sold to as yet unnamed media companies
Technical: Digital video, about five minutes

The film shows protests (on July 8, 2005) in San Francisco of a G-8 Summit meeting in Scotland. The protests are vigorous, with phrases like “Down with the War Machine!” and “War is a Symptom, Capitalism is the Disease.” Toward the end, the police are arresting protestors, who claim police brutality and initiate some heated verbal exchanges.

Now Josh had been in jail for eight months for contempt of court for refusing to turn over portions of the footage to a grand jury to assist in a prosecution. There were legal battles over whether he could claim journalistic immunity since he apparently did not have credentials of the established press. Furthermore he had not promised anyone confidentiality. Recall that in some cases even “established” reporters have been jailed for refusing to name sources, such as with Judith Miller.

The Washington Post story by Howard Kurtz, “Blogger Makes Deal, Is Released from Jail,” appears on page C01 on April 4, 2007, here.

The rights of bloggers or self-publishers and filmmakers without press credentials is legally and philosophically controversial. Electronic Frontier Foundation maintains that the legal rights of amateurs are still considerable.

Here is their FAQ page on bloggers as journalists.

On media access:

On Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) access:

A relevant legal case on this controversy is Apple v. Does. Here is EFF's detailed information page on that case.

Jeff Wolf’s story would itself make a good documentary film, either for the arthouse and film festival market, or maybe for something like HBO Documentary (which has access to major theater distribution companies when needed). I hope we see it soon.

There may be some controversy over amateur video taken at a demonstration April 3 about Karl Rove (“Bush’s Brain”) at American University.

Update: May 14, 2007

USA Today has a point-counterpoint editorial today on the propsoed Free Flow of Information Act, here. One con is that reporter immunity could have compromised the Watergate prosecutions against Richard Nixon in 1973/1974.

Picture: SLDN demonstration to lift "don't ask don't tell" regarding gays in the military, assembly on west lawn of Capitol, Monday March 26, 2007.

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