Press Freedom Organization Pushes for Stenographer in Court Room

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
June 3, 2013 Updated: June 3, 2013

After the U.S. government refused to release transcripts of the Bradley Manning court proceedings, and denied 280 out of 350 media organizations that applied for press passes, the Freedom of the Press Foundation launched a campaign to fund a team of stenographers—those people who type out transcripts of what is said in court cases—to sit in the media room at the trial.

“Journalists covering Manning’s case face many Kafkaesque obstacles, but nothing is more punitive than the government’s refusal to provide a timely and accurate transcript. By funding a court stenographer, we hope to help journalists in their effort to report on the trial,” said Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who serves on the board of directors of Freedom of the Press Foundation and attended Manning’s Article 32 hearing, in a statement.

The foundation has raised over $57,000 from over 1,000 donors to fund the team of stenographers. They estimate the cost of covering the entire trial at between $60,000 and $120,000.

The foundation said the judge ruled the stenographers can be in the court room, so the only remaining obstacle is obtaining media passes for the stenographers to go into the court room . Three of the foundation’s media partners—the Guardian, Forbes, and the Verge, applied for press passes for the stenographers but were denied.

Yet, at least for the first day of the trial (today, June 3), a stenographer has made it into the trial, after Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network gave up his media pass. 

The transcript of the first day of the proceedings will be up at the latest 9 a.m. tomorrow, said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Meanwhile, the foundation has sent a letter to the military asking for a reconsideration of the decision not to issue press passes directly to the stenographers or extra press passes to the foundation’s media partners.

The case comes after a group of organizations tried to make public the court documents and proceedings in trial, but were denied by the nation’s top military court.

In an April 16 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said it doesn’t have the authority to rule on public access in the Manning trial. The case, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and supported by 32 news and other organizations, could go to the Supreme Court, according to Rosanna Cavanagh, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. 

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.