Kevin Gosztola, reporting on the Bradley Manning pretrial hearings at Fort Meade this week, noted an interesting and troubling incident relating to press coverage of the proceedings. Following the leak of audio of a statement read by Manning, a military public affairs officer has reportedly offered stern warnings to credentialed reporters in the press gallery. Via Gosztola:
In reaction to the leak of audio of a statement read by Pfc. Bradley Manning in military court at Fort Meade last month, a military public affairs officer told reporters credentialed to cover his court martial, “Police yourselves.” The officer scolded the press saying, “If there is another violation, everyone feels the pain, not just certain individuals.”
The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) in March published a copy of audio someone recorded of Manning reading the statement he wrote when he pled guilty to disclosing some information to WikiLeaks. FPF saw the publication of the audio as an act that supported journalism, which combatted “overreaching government secrecy.” It noted, “While reporters are allowed in the courtroom, no audio or visual recordings are permitted by the judge, no transcripts of the proceedings or any motions by the prosecution have been released, and lengthy court orders read on the stand by the judge have not been published for public review.”
The officer offered no proof that the leak came from a particular individual, who was in the media operations center. Her comments just made it clear the public affairs officer had adopted a posture toward the press that we were all suspects.
Perhaps most troubling of all, the officer reportedly declared, “This media operation center is a privilege, not a requirement" -- a worrying attitude about press presence and record keeping at arguably one of the most important trials of this century.
Gosztola commented on the officers bidding that journalists "police" each other on following court rules, "No Mussolini School of Journalism exists so one can confidently say that there is no journalism school that teaches journalists to police fellow individuals in their profession, including others they may work alongside in a press pool."