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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Journalist fights subpoena in Lt. Watada court-martial case

Making Contact's Sarah Olson Fights U.S. Army's Attack on Journalists and Anti-War Voices

National Radio Project supports lieutenant's right to speak out freely, and defends journalist's objection to court-martial subpoena
January 10, 2007

National Radio Project and Making Contact join with PEN American Center, the Society of Professional Journalists, military reporters and editors, the editorial staff of the LA Times, Media Alliance and scores of community groups in denouncing the Army's attempt to turn journalists into an investigative arm of the government, erode the separation between press and government, and chill free speech.


If Sarah refuses to testify in the upcoming court-martial, she faces a felony contempt of court charge, up to six months in prison, and a fine of up to $500.00.

Sarah says, "It’s not my job to participate in the government prosecution of my own sources, especially when the crime relates to political speech. …why would any dissenter or whistleblower trust me in the future? As a journalist in the land of the First Amendment, I see myself owing a duty to the public, not to the state." Sarah adds, "Hauling journalists in front of a military court to testify against their own sources threatens to create a chilling effect on dissenting voices. This subpoena also creates a chilling effect on journalists willing to cover these relevant and newsworthy stories."

As an independent, non-profit media group, we want to make sure voices of dissent against the war in Iraq are heard. This subpoena seems odd given the clear, first-person statements made by Lt. Watada in Olson’s Making Contact segment, which aired publicly on over 200 radio stations, was podcast to 11,000 subscribers and is freely available on our website.

You can listen to Lt. Watada’s statements in Sarah’s report here...http://www..org/sound/ or in our special report 12/27 looking-back-moving-forward

Why Watada, why Olson, why now? Could it be that the military and this administration are concerned about the growing public disgust with the war in Iraq, the growing anti-war movement and GI resistance? The Appeal for Redress, a recently drafted bring- the-troops-home letter to Congress, is signed by over 1000 members of the Armed Forces.

We agree with Sarah’s assertion that, “It is ironic that the Army seeks my testimony – the testimony of a journalist – in a case against free speech itself. What could be more hostile to the idea of a free press than a journalist participating in the suppression of newsworthy speech?” We need more debate in this country, not less.

Supporters encourage people to contact the Fort Lewis commanding officer to decry this assault on the First Amendment; urge dropping all the political speech related charges against Lt. Watada; and to request that the army accept Lt. Watada’s resignation and provide an honorable or general discharge.

Commanding General Fort Lewis and I Corps
Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik
Bldg 2025 Stop 1
Fort Lewis, WA 98433

This case is representative of a larger constellation of other cases in the post-911 era that are rarely covered in the corporate-
controlled media:
  • Journalist Josh Wolf has been in prison since August 2006 for resisting a grand jury seeking his videotapes of a protest.
    more info... http://freejosh.pbwiki.com/
  • In 2005 five ex-Black Panthers were imprisoned for refusing to testify for a grand jury pursuing cold cases from the 1970’s, at which time, some of them were interrogated and tortured.
    more info...http://www.freedomarchives.org/BPP/torture.html
  • Grand juries have been called in the last two years against environmental and animal rights activists on the west coast. Many people have been jailed for refusing to testify, and for participating in political actions.
    more info...http://www.cldc.org/
  • Listen to reports of the National Guard spying on the Raging Grannies, librarians fighting the Patriot Act, and civil libertarians fighting for Habeus Corpus on Making Contact's Liberty and Justice for... Whom?
  • On January 1, 2007, the California Highway Patrol blocked the Golden Gate Bridge and barred the free speech of Code Pink protesters during their New Years Day anti-war protest. The CHP also allegedly assaulted a News-7 camera operator.
    more info...http://sfbay.indymedia.org/antiwar/
  • For updates on Press Freedom and Media Justice, including efforts for a federal shield law to protect journalists, check out our friends at
    Media Alliance
  • Sarah Olson's Editor & Publisher essay,
    "Why I Object to Testifying Against Lt.Watada"
  • Follow Sarah's situation at freepresswg.org

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