After majors news outlets raised over $60,000 to hire stenographers to record Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial, the military court overseeing the trial has denied the stenographers press passes, cutting off any publicly-accessible written record of the proceedings.
Numerous news organizations that pooled together and formed the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) started the fundraiser to pay for a stenographer to ensure the court’s transparency during the trial. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also assembled a group of journalists and first-amendment activists to file a lawsuit, on two accounts, against the Department of Defense to force the court into transparency. Both time of which were ultimately struck down.
The Military District of Washington’s Media Desk said that the decision was due to “space limitations based on building fire codes.” The FPF has reported that on numerous occasions, the Army has actually been accommodating to press groups in the past: “the Army has opened a public overflow theater with live audio and video streaming.”
One stenographer has obtained a single day press pass, but that was given away from a major Manning supporter. As positive as that is, more diligence is imperative of the journalist community.
In complete contempt of the right to free speech, the court is keeping its secrecy intact. By making this decision, the court has spat in the faces of Manning, journalism, and the first amendment, ultimately making the trial look like some Stalinist, third-world Gulag.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.