Manning sentence could chill reporting

New York, August 21, 2013–The 35-year prison sentence handed down today to Army Pfc. Bradley Manning on charges of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks could chill the work of journalists covering national security issues.

“Military prosecutors who pursued Manning aggressively sought a harsh sentence because of the message it sends to would-be leakers,” said CPJ’s executive director Joel Simon. “As an organization dedicated to the defense of journalists and press freedom, we take a different view. This Manning prosecution combined with the Obama administration’s overzealous pursuit of leakers sends an unequivocal chilling message to journalists and their sources, particularly on issues of national security that are of vital importance to the public.”

Manning was convicted on July 30 on six counts of violating the Espionage Act, along with theft and other charges, but was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. U.S. authorities in the Obama administration have aggressively gone after officials who leak classified information to the press, charging seven under the Espionage Act, which is more than double the number of all previous administrations combined.