Wikileaks and whistle-blowing: The framing of bradley manning

Authors: Thorsen, E., Sreedharan, C. and Allan, S.

Pages: 101-122

ISBN: 9781137275721

DOI: 10.1057/9781137275745

Source: Scopus

WikiLeaks and Whistleblowing: The Framing of Bradley Manning

Authors: Thorsen, E., Sreedharan, C. and Allan, S.

Editors: Brevini, B., Hintz, A. and McCurdy, P.

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan


Inquiries into freedom of expression and the rights of the press frequently highlight examples where ordinary individuals have taken it upon themselves to leak information to a journalist with the aim of exposing corruption, maleficence or injustice. Hollywood films have contributed to a certain mythology surrounding whistleblowing; ‘All the President’s Men’ (1976) depiction of the covert informant ‘Deep Throat’ in the Watergate scandal being an especially well-known example, with others including The China Syndrome (1979), Norma Rae (1979), Silkwood (1983), The Insider (1999), The Constant Gardener (2005), The Informant (2009), and The Whistleblower (2010). In real life, whistleblowers usually wish to remain anonymous, relying on the journalist to uphold the principle of ‘protecting their source’ to safeguard them from reprisals. If the journalist-whistleblower relationship can be challenging to negotiate at the best of times, the whistleblowing site WikiLeaks has transformed it in profound ways. This chapter contributes to current debates surrounding WikiLeaks and whistleblowing by focusing on the alleged activities of Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of providing classified military documents to WikiLeaks. Following a discussion about the complex definition of whistleblowing, it will draw upon published descriptions of how Manning came to be in possession of the sensitive military materials documenting US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the steps he ostensibly took to leak them, and the involvement of WikiLeaks in placing them in the public domain. The second part of the chapter will focus on a comparative study of online news framing of Manning in the ensuing reportage and commentary published on the websites of The Guardian (, The New York Times ( and Der Spiegel ( On this basis, the chapter will develop its argument regarding news coverage of Manning as a whistleblower, but also investigate wider questions about WikiLeaks as an alternative platform encouraging whistleblowing to flourish. It will conclude by exploring the implications of the Manning case for journalism’s role in a modern democracy, with particular reference to its capacity to speak truth to power.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Chindu Sreedharan and Einar Thorsen