U.S.

Detroit Free Press v. Dep't of Justice

December 28, 2016

The Detroit Free Press sought to obtain the booking photos of federal indictees who had been publiicly named and had appeared in open court through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The U.S. Marshals Service denied the request, citing Exemption 7(C) of FOIA. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the Detroit Free Press. On appeal before the entire circuit court, the Sixth Circuit held that individuals maintain a "non-trival privacy interest" in booking photos. In response, the Detroit Free Press has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review. In support of the petition, the Reporters Committee argues that the booking photos of federal indictees do not implicate any cognizable privacy interests under the Constitution or the common law and should not be exempt from FOIA under Exemption 7(C).

Weaver v. Massachusetts

March 6, 2017

The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in this Supreme Court case to underscore the importance of the First Amendment right of access to jury selection proceedings, known as voir dire. The case involves an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, where the defendant's counsel failed to object to closure of voir dire, a structural error under the Sixth Amendment. Our brief argued that prejudice should be presumed because denying the public access to jury selection is a fundamental violation of a First Amendment.

OGIS Comments

February 27, 2017

The Reporters Committee submitted comments regarding a proposed rule promulgated by the Office of Government Information Services ("OGIS"). The comments recommend that OGIS expand the scope of the proposed rule to cover all of its statutory functions, and remove secrecy and confidentiality requirements in the proposed rule regarding mediation services. 

Dept. of Justice FOIA Regulations

March 6, 2017

The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Department of Justice on proposed revisions to its Freedom of Information Act regulations. We recommended that all components of the DOJ should accept FOIA requests via email, and that the Office of Information Policy should accept administrative appeals submitted via email. 

Letter in support of reporter Aaron Cantu

February 27, 2017

The Reporters Committee, joined by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, wrote to the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., in support of Aaron Cantú, the one remaining journalist still facing charges related to the protests on Inauguration Day. The letter questions why charges are still pending and why a journalist faces indictment when it appears he was covering the protests at the time of his arrest.

As FBI, others move to FOIA portals, email options disappear

Emma Lux | Freedom of Information | News | February 17, 2017
News
February 17, 2017

The Federal Bureau of Investigation no longer will allow individuals seeking public records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to file requests via email, according to several reports, and several other agencies are following suit.

The FBI's FOIA page already has removed any mention of an email submission option, though it has notified some requesters that it will allow email requests until the end of this month. According to the agency page, requesters now have to submit written requests by fax or standard mail, or they can use an online portal system called eFOIA. The FBI used to allow for requests to be filed via email in addition to the online portal system.

Report on survey of journalists' views on "release to one, release to all" FOIA policy

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | News | August 31, 2016
News
August 31, 2016

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is publishing the results of its survey of journalists on the "release to one, release to all" policy under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). More than 100 self-identified journalists responded to the survey.

Respondents to the survey were generally in favor of a “release to one, release to all” policy if it is implemented with a delay between release to the requester and release to the public. While a quarter of respondents supported the policy unconditionally, almost 60% support it only with conditions, such as a delay period.

Supplemental testimony re: SPEAK FREE Act, H.R. 2304

August 10, 2016

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Bruce Brown submitted supplemental testimony to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, explaining the Constitutional authority for enacting the federal anti-SLAPP bill. Specifically, the testimony details how Congress is authorized to enact the SPEAK FREE Act under the Commerce Clause and is authorized to include a broad removal provision under Article III.

Pentagon revises war manual to emphasize protections for journalists

Sophie Murguia | Newsgathering | News | July 28, 2016
News
July 28, 2016

The Pentagon has updated its Law of War manual to clarify that journalists are generally protected as civilians under international law. The changes, announced last week, came after media groups expressed concern that some language in the original version could put reporters at risk of being considered spies or combatants.

The manual, first released in 2015, is the Department of Defense’s guide to international law as it applies to the U.S. military. The original manual drew criticism for saying that although journalists are usually civilians, they can sometimes be “unprivileged belligerents” — a category that includes guerrillas and spies.

Chief FOIA Officers Council meets for the first time

Luis Ferre Sadurni | Freedom of Information | News | July 25, 2016
News
July 25, 2016

The Chief FOIA Officers Council, charged with addressing the most important difficulties in administering FOIA across government, met for the first time July 22 to begin the process of implementing a “release to one is a release to all” standard for federal records.

The policy would make agencies release FOIA-processed records to one requester and simultaneously to the general public by posting them online.

Concerns about the policy from both journalists and FOIA officers were addressed at the meeting. Many reporters worry that releasing requested documents to the public would compromise their reporting by allowing others to steal their “scoop.” Agency FOIA officers were troubled by the burden of ensuring records are accessible to all and in compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.