Sarah Olson off the Hook
January 30, 2007
Sarah Olson no longer has to choose between her liberty and her integrity. The freelance journalist, whom I profiled on January 17, will not be forced to testify at the court martial of Lt. Ehren Watada, who refuses to report for duty in Iraq. On January 29, Watada stipulated to the truth of the statements he gave Olson and another reporter. In exchange, the Army dropped two “conduct unbecoming” charges against him.
“This is obviously a great victory for the principles of a free press that are so essential to this nation,” Olson said in a statement. “Personally, I am pleased that the Army no longer seeks my participation in their prosecution of Lt. Watada. Far more importantly, this should be seen as a victory for the rights of journalists in the U.S. 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.”
Her victory is “a testament to what one determined and courageous reporter can accomplish in the face of government intimidation
A coalition recently sprang up to support Olson. Calling itself Defend the Press (defendthepress.org), it was founded by the Center for Media and Democracy.
(Full disclosure: I signed a Defend the Press petition urging the government not to force Olson to testify against Watada.)
Olson’s victory is “a testament to what one determined and courageous reporter can accomplish in the face of government intimidation,” said John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy.
Olson and representatives of the Defend the Press coalition will hold a news conference on February 1 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
“I note with concern that Lt. Watada still faces prosecution for exercising his First Amendment rights during public presentations,” Olson said. She also noted with concern that “journalists are subpoenaed with an alarming frequency, and when they do not cooperate they are sometimes imprisoned.”