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SPJ defends jailed journalist at rally

For immediate release:

Christine Tatum, President, (303) 881-8702
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211

INDIANAPOLIS —The Society of Professional Journalists continues its ardent defense of California freelance journalist Josh Wolf, who as of today has been imprisoned on contempt charges longer than any journalist in American history.

SPJ member Pueng Vongs, vice president of the Society’s Northern California chapter, was scheduled to speak at a noon rally today on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, 1 Carlton B. Goodlett Place.

Wolf, 24, has served 169 days in jail for refusing to give up video footage he took in 2005 of a protest during a G-8 economic summit. Protesters are suspected of vandalizing a city police car and injuring a San Francisco police officer.

Wolf rightly refuses to surrender unaired video footage because, he insists, journalists should never become arms of law enforcement.

“This freelance journalist who isn’t backed by a news organization with deep pockets deserves profound respect for the personal and professional sacrifices he is making,” said SPJ President Christine Tatum, an assistant business editor at The Denver Post. “Far too many journalists think they’re stalwarts of the First Amendment just because they show up for work every day, generate a big story or two every week and file the occasional Freedom of Information request. It’s time for more of us journalists to understand that we must do more to defend the First Amendment than what it takes for us to collect our paychecks. More journalists should join journalism-advocacy groups such as SPJ, which direct valuable resources and financial assistance to journalists in need, such as Josh Wolf.”

In the summer of 2006, SPJ leaders worked to cap Wolf’s legal expenses at $60,000. The Society has paid more than half that amount – $31,000 – through its Legal Defense Fund.

“The goal of this press conference is to ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to intervene to free Josh Wolf on behalf of all journalists and the general public,” Vongs said. “She has intervened already to have the charges dropped against San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada. They also face 18 months in prison for refusing to name their sources for stories on the steroids scandal in major league baseball.”

Scheduled to join Vongs at the press conference are: Bruce Brugmann, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Jeff Perlstein, Media Alliance, David Greene, First Amendment Project, Michael Cabanatuan, Northern California Media Workers Guild, Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco Supervisor, Carlos Villarreal, National Lawyers Guild, Kevin Epps, Filmmaker, Sarah Olson, Independent journalist and radio producer and Andy Blue, Free Josh Wolf Coalition and Assemblyman Mark Leno.

About SPJ
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ and SDX, please visit www.spj.org.


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