First Amendment Victory: Press 1; Pentagon 0

January 30th, 2007 - by admin

The Honolulu Advertiser – 2007-01-30 00:50:32

Watada Lawyer Says Military Dropping Two Charges
Honolulu Advertiser

HAWAII (January 29, 2007) — The US government has agreed to drop two charges that carried a maximum of two years in prison against Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, his lawyer said Monday. As part of the agreement, two reporters who had been issued subpoenas to appear before the court-martial will not have to testify, the lawyer said.

“By agreeing beforehand to all of the facts the government would ask of the … reporters, Lt. Watada shielded these journalists from the heavy-handedness of the government,” said Eric Seitz, lead attorney for Watada. “While we don’t think any charges should have (been) filed at all for simply exercising free speech, we are pleased with the government’s willingness to reduce Lt. Watada’s potential sentence by two years.”

The 28-year-old Honolulu native had been facing two years in prison on charges of missing a troop movement, and four additional years imprisonment on four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for his public statements critical of the Iraq war.

His court-martial is expected to begin Feb. 5.

Journalist Victory over Army in Watada Court-martial

From: Sarah Olson Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2007 20:31:06 -0800 (PST)

Hi all: Late this afternoon, Lt. Watada stipulated that he had made all the statements attributed to him in the four “conduct unbecoming” charges. In exchange, the Army dropped the two charges involving statements Lt. Watada made to individual reporters.

Here is the statement I released earlier this evening, regarding this development. I believe this is a great victory for the most basic understanding of press freedoms.

Statement by 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 US 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.

However, 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.

Statement by David Green
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. We are pleased that the Army and Watada have been able to reach an agreement that removes the necessity for Sarah to testify.” Scott Goodstein, Defend the Press 202-256-8320

Statement by John Stauber
of the Center for Media and Democracy

“This appears 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.” John Stauber, Center for Media And Democracy 608-260-9713

Sarah Olson and Defend The Press will be holding a Press Conference at 2pm on Thursday Feb 1st 2007 at The National Press Club in Washington, DC.

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 and Gar Smith, co-founder of Environmentalists Against War.

• For more information visit:

The Complete List of Coalition Members

• Martha Allen, Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press
• John Anderson, producer, Media Minutes and
• Felicity Arbuthnot, journalist
• Anthony Arnove, author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal; member, National Writers Union
• Barbara Nimri Aziz, PhD, producer WBAI, author
• Russ Baker, founder, the Real News Project
• Diana Barahona, independent journalist
• David Barsamian, author and founder, Alternative Radio
• Pauline Bartolene, freelance journalist and radio producer
• Larry Bensky, KPFA Pacifica Radio
• John Berendt, author and former editor-in-chief, New York Magazine
• Joel Bleifuss, Editor, In These Times
• Carl Boggs, author and professor
• Dan Brook, Ph.D., professor San Jose State University
• Craig Brown, editor, Common Dreams
• Karen Buczynski, filmmaker
• Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, Atlanta Progressive News
• Noam Chomsky, professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Anson Chong, former Hawaii State Senator
• Jeff Cohen, writer, lecturer and media critic
• Mick Collins, theatre artist
• Paul D’Amato, managing editor, International Socialist Review
• Lawrence DiStasi, writer
• Phil Donahue, producer and commentator
• Mark Dowie, former UC Berkeley School of Journalism professor, author, publisher
• Daniel Ellsberg, author and activist
• Barbara Ehrenreich, author
• Reese Erlich, journalist
• Mike Farrell, actor
• Deepa Fernandez, radio host, author
• Laura Flanders, RadioNation, Air America
• Linda K. Foley, president, The Newspaper Guild-CWA
• Geoffrey Fox, PhD, author and journalist
• Marlene Gerber Fried, Director, Civil Liberties and Public Policy, Hampshire College
• Susan Gleason, co-director, Reclaim the Media_Liv Gold, writer and radio host
• David Goodman, radio producer
• Robert Greenwald, director, Brave New Films
• Larry Gross, director, School of Communication, Annenberg School, USC
• DeeDee Halleck, indepedent film maker
• Dr. Betsy Hartmann, author and professor, Hampshire College_
• Don Hazen, Executive Editor, AlterNet
• Edward S. Herman, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
• Phil Hey, Briar Cliff University
• Doug Ireland, journalist and commentator
• Marcus Jacobs, propaganda press
• Robert Jensen, professor of journalism, University of Texas
• Lamont Johnson, stage produce and director
• Linda Jue, journalist
• Rob Kall,
• Deepa Kumar, assistant professor, Rutgers University
• Tony Kushner, playwright
• Anthony Lappé, Executive Editor, Guerrilla News Network
• Peter Laufer, author and journalist
• Thomas Lipscomb, Fellow, Annenberg Center for the Digital Future
• Mike Lux, Chair, American Family Voices
• Alan Maass, editor, Socialist Worker
• Lucinda Marshall, Feminist Peace Network
• Scott McLemee, member, National Book Critics Circle
• Robert McChesney, founder, Free Press
• Larry Merchant, sports writer and commentator
• Deena Metzger, writer
• John Nichols, political writer, The Nation
• Peggy O’Mara, executive director, Mothering Magazine
• Geneva Overholser, professor, University of Missouri School of Journalism
• Greg Palast, author and journalist
• Christian Parenti, journalist
• Michael Parenti, Ph.D., author and social commentator
• E. Barbara Phillips, Ph.D., Professor emerita, San Francisco State University
• Peter Phillips, Director, Project Censored
• Jennifer Pozner, executive director, Women In Media and News
• Andrea Prichett, founding member, Berkeley Copwatch; teacher
• Phillip Paul Ratliff, reverend
• Rob Robinson, Director, the Pacifica Foundation
• Eric Ruder, reporter
• Aram Saroyan, poet, playwright, novelist
• Keely Savoie, writer and journalist
• Sydney Schanberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
• Danny Schechter, Editor, Media Channel
• Wendy Schroell, Pacifica Radio and KPFT Houston
• Beth Schwartzapfel, writer and journalist
• Ben Scott, Policy Director, Free Press
• Jocelynne A. Scutt, Barrister and Human Rights Lawyer
• Gar Smith, journalist and co-founder, EAW
• Nancy Snow, author and professor, California State University–Fullerton
• Daniel del Solar, Former General Manager KALW-FM, WYBE-TV
• Norman Solomon, syndicated media columnist
• Jayne Lyn Stahl, founder, Writers-at-Large
• John Stauber, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy
• Inger Stole, author and board member, Center for Media and Democracy
• Jan Strout, Co-Director, Reclaim the Media
• Jonathan Tasini, President Emeritus, National Writers Union
• Melinda Tuhus, Free Speech Radio News
• Louis Wolf, Covert Action Quarterly
• Sherry Wolf, editorial board, International Socialist Review
• Burton H. Wolfe, author
• Melissa Young, independent TV journalist
• Howard Zinn, historian, playwright and social activist
• David Zirin, writer, The Nation
• Jerry Zremski, president, National Press Club