Pressing Issues

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was
back in court this week, testifying in the
trial of the source she spent 85 days in jail trying to protect
— Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, Scooter Libby. Miller
has been an ongoing flashpoint in the Valerie Plame affair — a
scandal that rocked the Bush administration, shredded what
little credibility was left in argument for war with Iraq, and
eventually landed Libby in court on perjury charges.

Miller’s actions were parsed to death on daily editorial pages
and in cable TV pundit duels back in 2005, and, now, Miller’s
recent court appearance has the talking heads spinning again. But
while Miller may be the most high-profile journalist embattled by a
government wary of the Fourth Estate, she is by no means the only
one.

The case of freelance journalist Sarah Olson has been largely
overlooked by mainstream outlets, but her recent victory is one
worthy of big-type headlines. Prosecutors representing the US Army
had tried to force Olson to
testify in a court martial against 1st Lt. Ehren
Watada
, whom she had interviewed shortly before he refused
deployment to Iraq. On January 29, the US government dropped two of
the charges against Watada, and withdrew their subpoena of
Olson.

According to John Stauber of the
Center for Media
and Democracy
, which campaigned on Olson’s behalf, ‘[t]hese
subpoenas were simply an effort to harass journalists.’ Since the
Army had many of Watada’s statements already, the attempt to force
Olson into testifying was little more than ‘intimidation,’
according to Stauber. ‘It is clear that we must continue to demand
that the separation between press and government be strong,’ Olson
said in a news release from the center, ‘and that the
press be a platform for all perspectives, regardless of their
popularity with the current administration.’

In another case of apparent strong-arming tactics,
Frank Koughan of Mother Jones
reports that the Federal Aviation Administration is currently
trying to fire a veteran safety inspector simply for talking to
the press. Safety Inspector Mike Gonzales is accused of sneaking
Koughan into a safety inspection without properly identifying
him as a member of the press. Koughan calls these accusations
‘provably false’ and argues that the situation is an attempt to
scare workers into not talking to the press.

As the government clamps down on journalists and their sources,
new technologies have begun to test the limits of what constitutes
the ‘freedom of the press.’ As of January 31, 2007, videographer
and citizen journalist Josh Wolf will have spent
162 days in
jail
for refusing to surrender raw footage of a film showing
protests of a G8 summit where property was damaged.
The released version of the film is still
widely available on the internet, but the
Court of Appeals in San Francisco has
ordered Wolf to turn over all of his footage from the protests.
His lawyers have recently filed a new motion for his release,
but his fate, along with the fate of many in the ‘citizen
journalism’ movement, remains in doubt. ‘The media is
precariously perched on a precipice,’
Wolf wrote from jail on his blog, ‘and it is
still anybody’s guess where it is heading.’

Go there >>
Making Contact’s Sarah Olson Fights U.S. Army’s
Attack on Journalists and Anti-War Voices

Go there too >>
Silent Skies

And there >>
Video Blogger Headed Back to Jail

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