Government openness

Va. high court clarifies FOIA exemption, redaction fee issues in case over climate change controversy

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | April 17, 2014
April 17, 2014

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled this morning that the University of Virginia does not have to release certain emails sent to and from a former professor.

The American Tradition Institute (now the Energry and Environmental Legal Institute) requested emails under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act from Michael Mann, a climate scientist and then-professor at UVA, in 2011. He intervened in the case at the trial level, alleging that the university was not sufficiently representing his privacy and academic freedom rights in a controversy surrounding climate change research.

Journalism group criticizes EPA's lack of openness

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | March 19, 2014
March 19, 2014

The Society of Environmental Journalists has released a statement criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to respond to public records requests, including still-lingering questions about a Jan. 9 chemical spill.

"As we celebrate 'Sunshine Week,' it’s worth noting that nowadays EPA in many cases simply fails to answer questions posed by journalists on behalf of the public – even some that are routine and non-controversial," wrote Beth Parke and Joseph Davis. Parke is SEJ's executive director and Davis is the director of SEJ's Watchdog Project.

"When the agency does respond, a favorite tactic is to wait until just before or even after a reporter’s deadline and then mail a short written statement that does not answer the questions," they wrote.

House passes FOIA reform bill

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | February 26, 2014
February 26, 2014

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, paving the way for more streamlined Freedom of Information Act request processing and a stronger role for the independent agency charged with reviewing government compliance.

H. B. 1211 creates a presumption of openness, allowing a document to be withheld only if an agency “reasonably foresees that disclosure would cause specific identifiable harm to an interest protected by an exemption, or if disclosure is prohibited by law.” Current FOIA law simply instructs agencies to release non-exempt information, rather than starting from the presumption that all information should be released and only then applying narrow exemptions.

Washington Supreme Court agrees governor can withhold some records with executive communications privilege

Latara Appleby | Freedom of Information | News | October 18, 2013
October 18, 2013

The Washington state Supreme Court ruled yesterday in an 8-1 decision that a governor can withhold certain documents involved with policymaking under the state's public records law.

Government forced to release names of Guantanamo Bay prisoners

Amy Zhang | Freedom of Information | News | June 20, 2013
June 20, 2013

In response to a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The Miami Herald, the Department of Defense was required to for the first time disclose the identify of 46 Guantanamo Bay prisoners detained indefinitely without trial because they are allegedly too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted.

Connecticut passes law restricting access to Newtown shooting, other police records

Amy Zhang | Freedom of Information | News | June 7, 2013
June 7, 2013

Reporters covering homicides in Connecticut won't have access to investigation photographs and 911 recordings describing victim conditions under a new law prompted by families of Newtown shooting victims and signed by the governor this week.

Judge denies media's request to film and photograph Monday's hearing of Colorado shooting suspect

Raymond Baldino | Secret Courts | News | July 27, 2012
July 27, 2012

A Colorado judge denied the media's request to film and photograph Monday's hearing of the man accused of killing 12 and wounding 58 people at an Aurora movie theater last week.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester has ordered that no cameras or audio recording be allowed at James Holmes' July 30 hearing where charges are expected to be filed against him. The order is part of a broader trend of restrictions issued by Sylvester limiting press coverage in the Colorado shooting.

New intelligence rules emphasize lie detectors, more investigators in effort to limit leaks to news media

Amanda Simmons | Newsgathering | News | June 27, 2012
June 27, 2012

In an attempt to "deter and detect" officials leaking information to news media organizations, the head of the country's intelligence community unveiled new measures on Monday, including lie detector tests and inspector general investigations, for preventing unauthorized disclosures.

Senate Judiciary Committee discusses transparency, FOIA

Rachel Bunn | Freedom of Information | Feature | March 13, 2012
March 13, 2012

Transparency and government adherence to the federal Freedom of Information Act was under scrutiny at a U.S. Senate Judiciary hearing Tuesday morning.

Sunshine Week Returns in 2012; Reporters Committee joins ASNE as national co-sponsor of open government effort

Press Release | November 17, 2011
Sunshine Week logo
November 17, 2011

Sunshine Week 2012, March 11-17, will encourage access to government information, urging both the public and public officials to “Put More Sunshine in Government.”

This year, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is co-sponsoring the project with the American Society of News Editors, which launched the nationwide initiative in 2005 with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.