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​ Prison Sentence Given to Manning "Harsh" and "Unjust" says IFJ

26 August 2013

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today joined the chorus of civil liberties groups, press freedom organisations and unions in criticising the 35-year prison sentence given to Chelsea Manning as "harsh", "unjust" and "unfair".

Chelsea, who recently announced she had changed her name from Bradley and will undergo hormone therapy, was sentenced by a military court for passing on classified military documents to WikiLeaks.

"This is a clear signal to whistleblowers about the price they will pay for leaking governments' secrets in their attempt to inform their citizens about what is been done in their names. Not only will they lose their job but also their freedom for most of their adult life." said IFJ president Jim Boumelha. "It is unconscionable that the military judge delivered the heaviest sentence ever for a leak of US government information, while no one was held responsible for the crimes Manning exposed."

Among the abuses Manning exposed were the crimes by the US military in Iraq during the invasion, in particular the killing of two Reuters journalists and their children who were gunned down by a US apache helicopter in Baghdad while they tried to rescue an injured man. The video downloaded by Manning and the callous chatter of the pilots became one of the most important tools used by the IFJ to fight impunity surrounding the death of journalists in conflict zones.

The IFJ believes that such a disproportionate sentence is also a massive warning to journalists at a time when the public was exposed to the truth about the scale of the massive surveillance by the National Security Agency in the US and GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, and the secret laws underpinning their operations. It is thanks to Manning that other whistleblowers like Edward Snowden were motivated to pass on documents to journalists.

"Manning never intended to hurt anybody. Journalists understand well his motives as a whistleblower to speak out the truth and applauded him. Journalists need whistleblowers like Manning who are vital to the flow of information," added Boumelha.

Bernie Lunzer, president of NewsGuild-CWA, an IFJ affiliate in the US, commented on his facebook, "The Bradley Manning verdict of 35 years should function well to scare other whistle-blowers. Although I would not have done what Manning did, I think his actions had a major effect on shortening the "wars" and how Americans view them. He did expose war crimes and it was good that he did. I think the sentence is outrageously harsh, but it is consistent with the Obama administration's assault on transparency."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries