Submitted by John Stauber on
As the US Army court martial of military war resister Ehren Watada began today at Fort Lewis, Washington, video was posted on YouTube of a news conference held last week to discuss a victory in his case for freedom of the press. On Monday, January 29, US Army prosecutors dropped two court martial charges against anti-war activist Lieutenant Ehren Watada, and then released from subpoena two journalists including Sarah Olson who had been subpoenaed to testify for Army prosecutors regarding Lieutenant Watada's anti-war opinions expressed to reporters. The Army's decision came in the face of an organized campaign launched five days earlier by the newly created Defend the Press coalition. The campaign, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy of Madison, Wisconsin, succeeded in rapidly mobilizing scores of notable journalists, authors, and media organizations all demanding that the Army drop its subpoenas of the journalists. Thousands of concerned citizens sent emails directly to the prosecutors from the Defend the Press website. On February 1, the coalition held a news conference in Washington, DC, at the National Press Club to discuss its press victory in the court martial of Lieutenant Watada. Video footage of the news conference is now on YouTube, including a short video featuring highlights of each presenter. Speakers included Sarah Olson, one of the journalists subpoenaed by the US Army to testify against Lieutenant Watada; Linda K. Foley, president of The Newspaper Guild; James Crowley, president of Military Reporters and Editors; Jerry Zremski, president of the National Press Club; Scott Goodstein, coordinator of the Defend the Press campaign; and, John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the organization that launched Defend the Press. "This is a big win for all journalists," said Jerry Zremski, president of the National Press Club. "When the government tries to drag reporters into court to testify about their work, it undermines their ability to freely report the news -- and that means it undermines the First Amendment. The victory we achieved here is a sign that we can fight -- and win -- these battles for a free press." The Defend The Press coalition counts among its supporters scores of notable journalists, authors and free speech advocates 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, co-founder, Free Press; Geneva Overholser, professor, University of Missouri School of Journalism; and Gloria Steinem, publisher and journalist.