The California First Amendment Coalition has joined other supporters of journalism in filing a legal brief on behalf of Josh Wolf. He’s in jail for contempt of court, because he refused to hand over to the federal government out-takes of footage he shot at a street demonstration in San Francisco.
While Wolf’s sympathies may well have been with the demonstrators, he was engaging in journalism when he shot that footage. And under California’s Shield Law he’d be protected from this kind of demand from state or local authorities.
But the federal government, using a pretext so flimsy that it would be laughable if the issue wasn’t so serious — it says there’s a federal case because federal tax dollars helped pay for a city police car that was damaged in the demonstration — is carving out a huge hole in the state shield law. If the U.S. government can do this in this case, it can basically neuter all state shield laws.
(Note: I’m on the board of directors of of the California First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit organization.)