Posted by John Stauber on January 29, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact:
Scott Goodstein, Defend The Press, 202-256-8320, email: sgcatalyst AT aol.com

John Stauber, Center for Media and Democracy, 608-260-9713
email: john AT prwatch.org

Defend the Press, Sarah Olson, Declare Victory in Watada Court Martial

(Madison, WI) The Honolulu Advertiser first reported the breaking news that "The U.S. government has agreed to drop two charges that carried a maximum of two years in prison against Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada. As part of the agreement, two reporters who had been issued subpoenas to appear before the court-martial will not have to testify."

"This is surely a great victory for journalist Sarah Olson and our Defend the Press coalition," said John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy of Madison, Wisconsin. "This is a testament to what one determined and courageous reporter, Sarah Olson, can accomplish in the face of government intimidation. These subpoenas were simply an effort to harass journalists who are reporting on the growing anti-war sentiment among rank and file soldiers. This is a blow for press freedom and for free speech."

Quote from Journalist Sarah Olson:
"This is obviously a great victory for the principles of a free press that are so essential to this nation. Personally, I am pleased that the Army no longer seeks my participation in their prosecution of Lieutenant Watada. Far more importantly, this should be seen as a victory for the rights of journalists in the U.S. to gather and disseminate news free from government intervention, and for the rights of individuals to express personal, political opinions to journalists without fear of retribution or censure. I am glad the growing number of dissenting voices within the military will retain their rights to speak with reporters. But I note with concern, that Lt. Watada still faces prosecution for exercising his First Amendment rights during public presentations. The preservation of these rights clearly requires vigilance. Journalists are subpoenaed with an alarming frequency, and when they do not cooperate they are sometimes imprisoned. Videographer Josh Wolf has languished in federal prison for over 160 days after refusing to give federal grand jury investigators his unpublished video out takes. It is clear that we must continue to demand that the separation between press and government be strong, and that the press be a platform for all perspectives, regardless of their popularity with the current administration."

Quote from Sarah's attorney, David Greene of The First Amendment Project
"This is a tremendous victory for both Sarah and for every journalist who fears being dragged into the middle of a dispute between a source and the government."

The Defend The Press coalition, founded by the Center for Media and Democracy, announced itself on January 24, 2007. Among its supporters are notable journalists, authors and free speech activists including Phil Donahue, producer and commentator; Sydney Schanberg, author; Linda K. Foley, president, The Newspaper Guild-CWA; Larry Gross, director, School of Communication, Annenberg School, USC; Tony Kushner, playwright; Robert McChesney, founder, Free Press; Geneva Overholser, professor, University of Missouri School of Journalism; Gloria Steinem, publisher, journalist; Jerry Zremski, journalist and president, National Press Club.

Defend the Press and Sarah Olson will hold a news conference Thursday, February 1, at 2pm in the National Press Club, Washington, DC.

For a complete list of Coalition members visit:
http://www.prwatch.org/defendthepress/coalition.html

For more information visit: http://www.defendthepress.org or
http://www.freepresswg.org

Comments

...But according to the Advertiser's story, the government agreed to drip the subpoenas because Watada agreed in advance to the facts Olson would have been pressed to testify to. Had Watada declined to do that, Olson might well still be on the hook. The government is keeping its powder dry for future cases.

Yes, good point Mutternich. This victory should be seen as just the begiinning of a deeper campaign against government harassment, intimidation and bullying of the press. Stay tuned, there is work to do. We'll be holding a news conference at the National Press Club Thursday, February 1st, 2pm.

we gotta keep on the lookout for those (oops!) "dripping" subpoenas!

I for one think this is an important moment, and one not to be taken lightly. If possible, would someone please post the information, if any is known, as to whether or not Ms. Olson's news conference will be broadcast live or tape-delayed on any of the 3 C-Span television networks, or streamed at c-span.org.

Thanks ~

The news conference with Sarah Olson and Defend the Press coaliition will be Feb. 1st, Thursday, 2pm, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Reporters interested in attending should send an email to: john AT prwatch.org .

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