News

Format: 2014-12-20
Format: 2014-12-20
December 16, 2014
An Illinois appellate court has reversed a trial court’s order that a reporter reveal his confidential source, shooting down the judge's conclusion that finding the identity of a leaker of a police document in a murder case justified compelled disclosure. The Reporters Committee, joined by 38 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the case, People of the State of Illinois v. Bethany McKee, in April 2014.
December 12, 2014
The European Union has claimed the authority to regulate search results that appear on American servers in a November proposal regarding the ‘right to be forgotten,’ a proposition that is worrisome to U.S. journalists. Under the current European privacy law, individuals can ask the European versions of search engines to remove links to information about themselves from search results. Sites like Google.uk and Google.de have been forced to comply with the requests unless the information serves a compelling public interest. Users who want to access the delisted links are switching from European sites like Google.uk or Google.de to Google.com, which is hosted on U.S. servers.
December 12, 2014
A bipartisan FOIA reform bill failed to be put to a vote in the House on Thursday after it was unanimously approved by the Senate. The inaction spelled death for the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, as House members are scheduled to leave town today and have not scheduled a vote on the measure. One of the more frustrating aspects of the incident is that the House unanimously passed an even broader FOIA reform bill in February, leaving open government advocates wondering about the reasons for the House’s inaction. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who co-sponsored the Senate bill along with John Cornyn, R-Texas, blamed House Speaker John Boehner, tweeting on Thursday night, “And Boehner kills #FOIA improvements.”
December 9, 2014
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has filed a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California over their refusal to grant access to important historical documents currently being held in a library at the University of California, Berkeley. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of both the Reporters Committee and Professor Stephen Bloom, a journalist, author, and professor of journalism at the University of Iowa who has written extensively about California’s history.
December 9, 2014
After a last minute hold was released, the Senate unanimously passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 yesterday. The Act, which strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), will now head to the House for its approval. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) lifted his hold on the bill late in the day on Monday, allowing the bill to proceed. When asked about the reasons for his delay, the Senator rather mysteriously said, “it’s sort of the internal workings of the Senate.” Lifting the hold allowed Sen. Leahy to go to the floor and secure the unanimous consent of the Senate.
December 5, 2014
A controversial prior restraint in a Connecticut familly court case has been lifted, but the judge made clear that he still believes he did the right thing in barring the Connecticut Law Tribune from reporting on a publicly available document. Superior Court Judge Stephen Frazzini vacated the order prohibiting a newspaper from reporting on a child custody case Wednesday. Frazzini did not find that the prior restraint violated the First Amendment. Instead, he recognized in his December 3 memorandum that it was pointless to maintain the order once other media outlets disclosed the same information, and that preventing the Law Tribune from disclosing already disseminated information no longer protected or endangered the children’s interests.
December 4, 2014
Update: as of the end of the day on Dec. 4, Senator Coburn has reportedly lifted his hold on the bill, although it is now being reported that Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) is holding it up. The Senate is poised to take action on the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, which would make great improvements to the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the bill is inexplicably being held up by a single senator.
December 3, 2014
On December 15, the Ninth Circuit will rehear oral argument in a case that has odd facts and has made terrible law. In Garcia v. Google, a panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit issued a broad mandatory injunction compelling Google to remove and take measures to prevent the publication of a controversial video—all based on a novel copyright theory. The injunction was issued in February. In March, the U.S. Copyright Office rejected the plaintiff’s attempt to register her asserted copyright. Yet despite the plaintiff’s exceedingly attenuated copyright interest, the injunction continues to be in force almost a year later, restraining Google from publishing the video.
November 21, 2014
(Editor's note: The Reporters Committee's hotline, 800-336-4243, will be available during any upcoming unrest for journalists who are interfered with while covering the news.) As St. Louis anxiously awaits a grand jury decision on whether to indict the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, city, county and state officials have agreed to consent orders regarding the arrest of journalists to end litigation brought by the ACLU over earlier events in Ferguson.
November 17, 2014
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today filed a brief in an important case assessing the constitutionality of warrantless acquisition of historical cell phone location data.
November 10, 2014
Update: The complete conference video is now online. “Edward Snowden is not a model for journalism,” James Risen said at a conference on digital security practices last Friday. “If it is, we’re going to have a lot of lawyers — and a lot of problems.” From left to right, James Risen of The New York Times, Julia Angwin of ProPublica, Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU discuss the use of encryption by journalists.
November 10, 2014
A superior court judge in Georgia reversed himself on Monday and lifted an order he had entered last week enjoining the media from broadcasting or publishing a story about witness intimidation in the ongoing criminal corruption trial about educators cheating on standardized tests in Atlanta public schools. Last Friday, Judge Jerry Baxter signed an order preventing the media from reporting a story that a witness for the prosecution had received an anonymous threatening voice mail for testifying against a former Atlanta public school superintendent. The county district attorney sought the order because, he argued, the news report might have a chilling effect on future witnesses or the jury.
November 7, 2014
The grand jury weighing whether or not to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown is expected to deliver a decision by mid-November. But possible unrest could return to the city if the grand jury declines to indict next week, while police officials have still not addressed the treatment of journalists who covered the protests. The protests following the Aug. 9 shooting prompted reports of police officers arresting and intimidating reporters who were trying to cover the story. According to Officer Tim Zoll, a spokesman for the Ferguson Police Department, the department has no plans to change police treatment of media in Ferguson. "The Ferguson Police Department is going to operate the same way we've always operated and our first concern is the safety of the public," said Zoll. "We hope the media is smart enough to take our advice."
November 6, 2014
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by a national coalition of media organizations, has filed comments on proposed Department of Defense (DoD) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. As the comments note, the press routinely relies on FOIA to gain access to government records in order to inform the public on the workings of the government and its elected officials. Ensuring agencies implement FOIA in a manner that is faithful to the spirit of the law and President Obama’s stated commitment to transparency is imperative in order for the press to perform its important role in our democracy.
October 24, 2014
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has joined a letter sent by 50 transparency and open government organizations to President Obama asking for his position on legislative reform to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Citing the President’s day-one commitment to transparency, the letter points out that there remain “many challenges in fulfilling” that goal. “FOIA remains one of the most effective tools for the public to know what its government is up to,” the letter states, but “changing agency practices under that statute to meet your transparency goals has been especially challenging.” Accordingly, the letter identifies six core components of FOIA reform that must be legislatively mandated to ensure realization of the President’s stated open government goals: