May 2015 will mark the fifth anniversary of Chelsea Manning’s arrest. Manning is the US soldier who became the source of some of the biggest leaks WikiLeaks published in 2010. Thanks to Manning’s whistleblowing, Julian Assange’s website was able to publish important and classified documents related to the Afghan and Iraqi wars, the corpus of US diplomatic correspondence known under the name of “Cablegate” and the video Collateral Murder. Before being sentenced to 35 years in prison in August 2013, Chelsea Manning had been in pre-trail detention for more than 3 years, under conditions different observers, including the UN, have defined as inhumane and comparable to torture.
Chelsea Manning is the topical whistleblower and the harsh sentence she’s facing is a clear symptom of the chilling climate surrounding whistleblowers and investigative journalists in the USA under the Obama administration. Besides Manning, other whistleblowers such as the NSA leaker Edward Snowden and the former Anonymous activist Jeremy Hammond have been prosecuted and the 1917 Espionage Act in particular has been used against journalistic sources, setting a dangerous precedent where journalism is treated as treason or, even worse, espionage.
Chelsea Manning’s history is emblematic when it comes to contemporary journalism. The panel will take stock of the Manning case after five years and will underline and debate some of the major issues related to the case, such as the consequences for journalism and source protection and the need of stronger protections for whistleblowers and the journalists dealing with them.
Organised in association with the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights