Act to protect press freedom

Thanks to Daniel del Solar for forwarding this urgent notice from Martha Wallner about this latest effort by the Bush administration to suppress our right to know and reporters' right to report. Martha writers:

Dear friends, I am forwarding this information about a colleague of mine, Sarah Olson. Sarah does excellent reporting for the National Radio Project program “Making Contact” which is heard on community and public radio all around the country.To listen to a program she recently produced on what pregnant women in prison face – go to: radioproject. Please read about Sarah’s case below and if so moved take one or more of the support actions also described below. Thanks, Martha Wallner


Sarah Olson, a reporter for Truthout received a supoena in December to testify in the court-martial of 1rst Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. The supoena is to compel Olson to testify that Watada made statements against the war to her that the military has deemed conduct unbecoming an officer. Olson objects to testifying and if she doesn’t she risks 6 mos. in jail (unlike civilian grand juries which can hold you up to 18 mos.) Dahr Jamail, who blogs and reports on Iraq, and who you may have heard on Democracy Now! is also on the witness list although he has not been subpoenaed. He recorded a speech Watada gave to a Iraq Veterans Against the War conference and posted it on the web.

At this juncture, Olson is in urgent need of support, please see below for details.

To read her full interview with Lt. Watada

In a statement explaining why she will not testify, Olson points out that,

“It seems clear that the U.S. Army is attempting to redefine the parameters of acceptable speech and to classify dissent as a punishable offense. Subpoenaing journalists in this case unequivocally sends the message that dissent is neither tolerated nor permitted. Utilize your constitutionally guaranteed speech rights and go to prison. What rational soldier would agree to speak with me or any other member of the media if jail was a likely result?

When the press cannot or does not reflect the vibrant and varied perspectives within our society, it is reduced to a simple transcriber of government press releases. The record of existing dissent is erased, and a dumbed-down, homogenized version of “The American Experience” is all that’s left in its place.”

There is now a website set up to cover Olson’s case where you can learn more and make donations to help defray her legal costs. Olson is also asking people to send letters to the commanding general at Ft. Lewis and to Robert Gates. The addresses are:

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

Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301

Finally, Olson is asking for signatures on the following statement:
We, the undersigned journalists, academics, artists and citizens, object to the Army’s decision to subpoena independent journalist and radio producer Sarah Olson and Honolulu Star Bulletin reporter Greg Kakesako, to testify in the court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. We are further disturbed by the Army’s decision to add independent journalist Dahr Jamail and videographer Sari Gelzer to the prosecution’s witness list.

It’s a journalist’s job to report the news, not to participate in government prosecutions of political speech. The press cannot function if it is used by the government, and hauling a journalist into a military court erodes the separation between government and press. Turning reporters into the investigative arm of the government subverts press freedoms and chills
dissenting speech in the United States. The press must preserve its ability to cover all aspects of a debate, not just the perspectives popular with the current administration. We believe a journalist’s duty is to the public and their right to know, not to the government.

In the name of the cornerstone values this nation claims to uphold and for which the men and women in the military are fighting, we ask that you to end your insistence that journalists participate in the court-martial of Lt. Watada. We need more information, participation, and debate – inside and outside the military – not less. As the LA Times argued in its January 8th editorial: “It’s time for the Army to back off.”
You can sign the statement by sending an email to Sarah Olson at solson75@yahoo.com indicating your support. Very important–do this TODAY, Sarah needs these letters by Jan. 19th!

For more information and to support Olson and Jamail

For more information on the case of Lt. Ehren Watada

Daniel del Solar
e-mail solarmedia@hotmail.com
cell 510 290 3022


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