A freelance videographer jailed for refusing to turn over footage of a violent demonstration to federal investigators became the longest-incarcerated journalist in U.S. history on Tuesday.
Josh Wolf, 24, has spent 169 days in a federal prison after declining a federal subpoena for unaired videotape he shot of the chaotic July 2005 San Francisco street protest against the G-8 summit in Scotland. Anarchists allegedly vandalized a San Francisco police car during the melee, and an officer suffered a fractured skull after being struck.
"Josh is fighting a brave battle that — chillingly — an increasing number of journalists in the U.S. are facing," said National Press Club President Jerry Zremski in a statement.
Vanessa Leggett, a Houston-based freelancer, served 168 days in 2001 and 2002 for declining to reveal unpublished material about a murder case.
Wolf sold some of his protest footage to San Francisco television stations and posted parts of the video on his Web site. He and his lawyers have argued that the First Amendment gives him the right to refuse the subpoena to turn over the rest of the tape.
But judges have turned down motions for Wolf to be released, citing a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reporters are not entitled to withhold their confidential sources or unpublished material in a grand jury investigation or criminal trial.
Some have questioned whether Wolf, an openly left-wing freelancer, was acting as a journalist at the protest rather than an active participant. His attorney, Martin Garbus, has said Wolf was there solely for newsgathering purposes.