Today, First Look Media's Press Freedom Litigation Fund and the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) are announcing the launch of a matching fund campaign to support the legal appeals of U.S. Army intelligence analyst turned whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
First Look Media's Press Freedom Litigation Fund will match $50,000 in donations to the campaign along with Glenn Greenwald, Intercept co-founder and journalist, who will personally match $10,000 for the initiative.
Since Chelsea Manning was detained in 2010 for disclosing government documents to WikiLeaks, she has endured victimization, maltreatment, and unlawful pre-trial abuse. In 2013, she was convicted of violating the Espionage Act and other offenses and sentenced to 35 years in prison – a term that numerous experts, both legal and otherwise, have deemed excessive and severe. Manning's trial was also clouded by a charge of aiding and abetting the enemy by indirect means under the Uniform Code of Military Justice – that by providing the documents to WikiLeaks, she was aiding the enemies of the United States who might be able to read and access them. The charge carried a potential life sentence. Though she was acquitted of this charge, the threat to whistleblowers who might leak to journalists was clear. This fundraising campaign will serve to help Chelsea continue her legal fights and safeguard her ability to adequately defend herself. If successful, her legal triumph could lead to a significant reduction of her prison term as well as a broader victory for whistleblowers' rights and defenses.
"First Look Media established the Press Freedom Litigation Fund for the specific purpose of upholding and protecting the rights of journalists and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning who have risked their own freedom for a substantial public interest. We're proud to be aiding Chelsea in her legal defense and encourage those who believe in the values of transparency, government accountability, and basic legal rights to join this campaign and contribute," said Lynn Oberlander, General Counsel, Media Operations at First Look Media. "We hope this support will meaningfully contribute to Chelsea's appeals, but will also serve as a reminder that she is not alone in this fight."
Freedom of the Press Foundation will manage the matching fund campaign and has agreed to waive all fees and commissions, ensuring that one hundred percent of the donations from the campaign will be applied to Manning's legal expenses.
"We hope this is more than just a chance to donate to Chelsea as she continues her quest to overturn the horrible military precedent for future whistleblowers," said Trevor Timm, co-founder and the executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation. "It's also an opportunity to show your support for Chelsea in a meaningful and public way, and to make a statement about how important brave whistleblowers like Chelsea are in a just and transparent democracy."
We'll keep you updated on the progress of this campaign and hope that you will consider lending your support. To contribute to the Chelsea Manning legal defense matching fund campaign, please visit: https://freedom.press/chelsea.
About First Look Media Press Freedom Litigation Fund (PFLF)
Launched in July 2014, First Look Media's Press Freedom Litigation Fund was designed to strengthen the ability of journalists and others to pursue legal fights where a substantial public interest is at stake. Grants under the program are used to fund challenges to government policies or actions that restrict press freedoms or denials of freedom of information act requests; motions to quash subpoenas seeking source information or journalistic material; defamation cases where the underlying report concerns a matter of public interest; access cases to closed proceedings or sealed documents; and amicus efforts in support of press freedom.
To date, the PFLF has provided grants to support the appeal in the case of Miranda v. Secretary of State for the Home Department and the defense of a defamation case launched against Sahara Reporters and its editor Patrick Sowore by Nigerian Senator Musiliu Obanikoro. Journalists or lawyers who are seeking such support should contact us via email at [email protected] and should include a proposed litigation budget as well as a description of how the litigation at issue furthers press freedom.
First Look Media has also provided grants in support of press freedom to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Electronic Frontier Foundation; the Freedom of the Press Foundation; and the First Amendment Coalition among other recipients.