US Army evidence technician Thomas Smith testifies at the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning. (art: Kay Rudin/RSN)
PRESS RELEASE - Reader Supported News - Fort Meade, Maryland - June 13, 2013
Reader Supported News has been targeted by the US Army and denied media credentials to report at the Bradley Manning trial. We filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings, seeking not only our credentials but also the right for the media to receive the audio and video feeds on a real-time basis.
We also asked for the media and the public to be able to fully utilize their laptops outside of the courtroom while watching the video feed. Currently there are significant impediments to members of the media and public using computing devices, with cellphone usage and with online access. Those conditions exist outside the courtroom and even to some extent in the designated media center. Minutes matter when trying to get out a story. Laptops are the pens and pencils of the journalist's trade. Currently, the media operations center is limited to 70 individuals. Even though this center has been sparsely attended since the first day of trial, RSN is still not permitted to enter the center.
On the first day of trial, the judge Colonel Denise Lind took our motion under advisement. She denied our motion on Monday, June 10, stating that we do not have standing to bring a motion to intervene for full media access to the trial (see pp. 15-17 of 144), based on ABC, Inc. v. Powell, 47 M.J. 363 (1997). RSN intends to seek relief in federal district court. We believe we will ultimately prevail, as ABC v. Powell plainly states that "when an accused is entitled to a public hearing, the press enjoys the same right and has standing to complain if access is denied." We will send out a separate press release in a few days when that action is filed and the hearing date is set.
This is a particularly remarkable situation, given that Judge Lind is a national expert on the subject of media access to military court proceedings. She wrote an erudite law review article on this subject back in 2000, in which she stated that "the media has standing to challenge denial of access" (see p.19).
Nonetheless, the judge refuses to even provide public access to the documents and transcripts filed in this action. Even private stenographers initially had difficulty accessing the trial on a contemporaneous basis. A federal court proceeding on access to documents and transcripts has been filed by members of the media, with a hearing scheduled for June 17.
At the hearing, the prosecution stated that Reader Supported News was denied media credentials because we were not in the Vocus database, and that that was in the press advisory. The prosecutor got it wrong -- as can be seen, the PR media monitoring database Vocus is not mentioned in the press advisory.
All we needed was a media ID, a letter on official letterhead, and "examples of posts that demonstrate recent coverage of the military judicial system." Reader Supported News is all over the internet and has a significant presence. We are unconvinced that Vocus failed to pick up RSN in their surveillance sweep.
Vocus monitors over 130,000 media outlets, including online news sources, print publications, blogs, and broadcast media. Public relations professionals report that Vocus is used by PR much as Westlaw or Lexis is used by attorneys. Their PR suite software provides a media database of more than 400,000 journalists and bloggers as well as news, blog, and social media monitoring. Vocus customers use it for research, to create media lists and learn about reporters, and to track our engagement with them. It's communications command control for talking with reporters. Vocus can tell its customers whether the media outlets are "positive or neutral."
Rules of Court-Martial 806 makes it very clear that the decision to exclude anyone from the courtroom is to be made by Judge Lind in a narrowly tailored manner. The same should be true as to any exclusion from the media operations center of a commercial online media outlet that has conformed with all of the regulations. The Army continues to insist that the media center is an extension of the courtroom. However, such a decision should not to be delegated to the Army press corps, and especially not to a media monitoring surveillance system.