A shameful record

You may not have heard of Josh Wolf, but he entered the history books this week, when he broke the U.S. record for the longest time a reporter has spent in jail for refusing to reveal his sources—169 days.

Wolf, a freelance videographer, has been imprisoned in the federal detention center in Dublin, Calif., for more than six months for refusing to surrender unpublished video he shot of a 2005 protest in San Francisco against the G-8 summit.

The government has no compelling need for the footage. Wolf has stated under oath that his unpublished material does not contain footage of any of the crimes allegedly committed by the demonstrators. He has also offered to let the judge review his tape in chambers.

At the government’s request, the judge refused.

Wolf is now convinced that the government wants the tape simply to identify the protesters, some of them anarchists, in what he calls a “witch hunt.”

“If the U.S. attorney can compel journalists to … turn over their unpublished materials,” Wolf has written from his cell, “then not only will the public be unable to trust reporters, but journalists themselves will become de facto deputies and investigators—a role few of us want and one I have refused to accept.”

Wolf’s continued incarceration is a shameful assault on press freedom. He should be released immediately and given an apology.