FORT MEADE, Md. -- A coalition of news organizations signed onto a letter urging the military to overturn its decision to deny press credentials to two crowdfunded stenographers throughout the trial of Bradley Manning, which is projected to last 12 weeks.
The Guardian, Fox News, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, the New Yorker and NPR were among the outlets signing onto the letter, which was organized by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and sent both to the military and the judge overseeing the case on Monday.
"Public and press access to court proceedings is a hallmark of democracy in the United States," the letter says. "In an unusual move, the government has not provided the press with copies of transcripts or court rulings of the pre-trial portions of the Manning case, and we are concerned that this lack of access to the court proceedings will continue during the upcoming trial."
While physical access to open pretrial hearings in the Manning case has generally been unrestricted, actually understanding what is happening has been much more difficult. The military and the judge overseeing the case have refused to release transcripts, motions, and even written copies of rulings in the case. The job of creating publicly accessible transcripts has been taken up by an independent journalist, Alexa O'Brien.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation has raised $57,000 to hire two stenographers to create daily transcripts of the trial. The group says that the stenographers are particularly necessary given the fact that 280 out of 350 news organizations requesting credentials for the trial were rejected. One stenographer was granted access to the trial on Monday via the credential of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Unlike in previous pretrial appearances, where media attendance was slim, the press room in Manning's trial was crowded on the first day. Reporters waited over an hour to access the military base.