The inside angle - Page 2

Independent journalists face consequences after documenting student education protests

Independent journo Josh Wolf finds himself in the middle of another controversy

Democracy Now! aired a lengthy report of the Nov. 20 occupation featuring footage that the two embedded reporters had captured from the interior of Wheeler, coproduced by David Martinez. Show host Amy Goodman specifically named Wolf as a co-contributor when the report aired.

Now Wolf is facing a possible seven-month suspension by the campus Center for Student Conduct, which charges him with violating the student conduct code on multiple counts. "Their perspective is that I am a student and that I am a journalist," Wolf explained. "My responsibility is no different from anyone else's in there, and therein, my punishment should be reflective of that of everyone else." Wolf said he had the backing of the journalism school, which confirmed to the Guardian that the dean wrote a letter of support for Wolf.

David Morse, 42, is a journalist who has covered hundreds of Bay Area protests on Indybay, an online news site that spotlights grassroots movements and protests. In a motion filed against UCPD, the First Amendment Project charges that Morse was arrested and had his camera seized Dec. 11 despite repeating six times that he was a journalist and displaying a press pass. "They told me, 'You have a camera, we want your camera,'<0x2009>" Morse recounted. The next morning, as reports of angry, torch-wielding students storming the chancellor's home and smashing windows made headlines, Morse was still sitting in jail in Santa Rita. "My voice as an eyewitness was completely silenced," he said. His charges were dropped, but now he is challenging the search warrant to get his memory discs back.

When the police department sought a search warrant for Morse's unpublished photos, they didn't mention that he had identified as a journalist, the FAP charges. The legal nonprofit filed a motion to quash the warrant on grounds that it violates a provision in the penal code barring search warrants for journalistic work products, invoking the state shield law.

Jourdan, meanwhile, faces five misdemeanor charges after filming the March 4 freeway protest and subsequent police response, which many have characterized as excessive. (In one clip, an officer can be seen striking an individual who doesn't appear to be resisting with a baton.) He was arrested along with two other videographers who also face criminal infractions. Footage Jourdan and Martinez captured from March 4 aired on Democracy Now!, and Jourdan's report was also featured as a lead story on the Huffington Post. Jourdan says he wore press credentials.

"It's unfair for them to file charges against me when they've dropped charges against others," Jourdan said. The Oakland Police Department confirmed to the Guardian that Jourdan had been charged with crimes such as unlawful assembly and obstruction of a thoroughfare, but did not respond to a message asking what set him apart from other reporters.

Jourdan, who has also contributed to Reuters, The New York Times, and other outlets, has managed to capture a variety of similar events on film, including Amy Goodman's arrest during protests outside the Republican National Convention in 2009. "Barely a month goes by that some lawyer isn't calling me up trying to get footage of some one getting beat up," he said. But he maintains that documenting these intense moments is crucial, not for resolving disputes, but to document these moments in history.