For Immediate Release:
John Ensslin, SPJ President, 973-513-5632,
Christine DiGangi, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 205,
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists has signed on to an amicus brief written by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press urging public access to judicial documents in the court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been accused of giving classified documents to the website WikiLeaks.
“Amici recognize that various interests, including the need to protect national security information, may justify sealed records in certain circumstances,” the brief states, referencing the 32 news organizations and journalism associations who have signed on to the friend-of-the-court brief. “They do not, however, generally justify complete secrecy.”
Manning’s court martial has highlighted the practice of whistleblowing on the issues of national security as the ease with which digital information can be leaked grows. The brief takes issue with the court’s grip on legal documents unrelated to national security, like motions and orders filed in the court martial.
“Reporters covering the high-profile event are often unaware of what is occurring therein — a serious obstacle to effective reporting on this matter of significant public interest and concern,” the brief states.
The brief asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to rule the presumption of closure unconstitutional where findings have been made regarding their sensitivity.
“To be sure, the prosecution of an American service member for the alleged leak of the largest amount of classified information in U.S. history is a matter of intense public interest and controversy, particularly where, as here, that person’s liberty is at stake,” the brief says. “Public oversight of the proceeding is of vital importance.”
As a free press and free speech advocate, SPJ initiates and joins amicus briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases. Most recently, SPJ joined a brief defending First Amendment rights in a case challenging the Stolen Valor Act.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.