Should journalists defend WikiLeaks’ whistleblower?

By now, everyone knows who Julian Assange is. The controversial WikiLeaks founder has made headlines around the world. But what about Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old Army private accused of releasing the secret military documents to the whistleblowing site.

Edward Wasserman, a professor of journalism ethics at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., wants to know why the media has largely ignored Manning’s incarceration. On his blog, he notes that the conditions of Manning’s arrest have been categorized as degrading, humiliating and traumatizing. The U.S. State Department spokesman was fired after calling Manning’s treatment “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” Wasserman reports. He adds:

“If these news media believe they were right to publish the material Manning gave them, how can they stand aside as he faces life in prison for giving it to them? If they did right and the world benefited, did he do wrong? On what grounds can they say—as Keller and Guardian of London editor Alan Rusbridger have—that they would help defend Wikileaks boss Julian Assange if the U.S. charges him, while they won’t lift a finger to protest Manning’s incarceration?”