News

Format: 2017-09-22
Format: 2017-09-22
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.
February 14, 2017
A court decision that resulted in an 85-day jail stay for reporter Judith Miller will be re-enacted and re-examined this afternoon by a number of prominent attorneys and judges. The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit will host the examination of the oral argument in In re Judith Miller, a 2004 reporter’s privilege case heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The event, which is part of the historical society’s annual program highlighting a significant issue before the D.C. Circuit, will take place from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the Ceremonial Courtroom on the sixth floor of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse.
January 27, 2017
Charges have been dropped against one of the seven individuals arrested and charged with felony rioting while covering the anti-Trump protests last Friday, according to a filing by the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. Superior Court. Evan Engel, who works at the news site Vocativ, had been released pending trial last weekend. The rioting charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. “After consultation with the counsel for Mr. Engel, who is a journalist with Vocativ, as well as a review of evidence presented to us by law enforcement, we have concluded that we will not proceed with the charge against this individual,” prosecutors said in a media statement. Engel's lawyer is former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.
January 10, 2017
Visual journalist Armando Gallardo, a freelancer for the news and entertainment network Fusion, was arrested Sept. 26 by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and charged with an “extraordinary event” violation while covering protests in Charlotte over the fatal shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. His crime? A gas mask, tucked away into his backpack as he snapped photos and spoke with members of a community reeling from violence.
November 8, 2016
As France continues to push the envelope in terms of enforcing a worldwide “right to be forgotten,” free press advocates in the U.S. have stepped in to help Google defend itself from an order to delist content across the global Internet.  Reflecting concern for newsgathering protections, as well as access to information for readers, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a media coalition of 28 news and journalism organizations today urged the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court, to strike down an order requiring Google to cleanse search results across all domains worldwide.
October 17, 2016
"Democracy Now!" journalist Amy Goodman announced to a crowd outside the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, N.D., that Judge John Grinsteiner refused to formalize charges against her for participating in a riot while she was covering a pipeline protest in the state. Goodman originally faced a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass in response to her Sept. 3 coverage of a protest against the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. She learned the trespass charge was dropped when she returned to North Dakota to continue reporting on the protests, but late last week learned that the state's attorney wanted to bring a more serious charge of participating in a riot.
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.
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.
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.
July 15, 2016
Federal authorities can withhold mug shots from release due to privacy concerns, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Thursday. The court, sitting en banc, overturned its 1996 decision, which held that there was no privacy interest to justify exempting federal mug shots from the Freedom of Information Act. The new ruling will not necessarily keep all mug shots from being released, but it will require a case-by-case consideration of whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs privacy interests. “A disclosed booking photo casts a long, damaging shadow over the depicted individual,” Judge Deborah Cook wrote for the majority in the 9-7 decision. The majority argued that the digital age has made privacy concerns even more pressing.
July 13, 2016
A week after the Freedom of Information Act’s 50th anniversary, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing that addressed next steps for improving and enforcing the law. The July 12 hearing also celebrated the passage of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, which President Barack Obama signed into law on June 30. The four witnesses at the hearing praised the law’s accomplishments, which include creating a “presumption of openness” toward disclosing records, as well as requiring the government to create a single online portal for FOIA requests. The law also ensures greater independence for the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the FOIA ombudsman.
July 7, 2016
Following almost two weeks of pressure from free speech groups and press coverage, a Georgia district attorney moved to drop felony charges against a newspaper publisher and his attorney earlier today.
July 6, 2016
Agency records can be subject to the Freedom of Information Act even if they are kept in an employee’s nongovernmental email account, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science and Technology Policy reversed a decision by a district court, which dismissed the case last year. The D.C. Circuit’s decision could set an important precedent for journalists and other FOIA requesters by clarifying that agency records are subject to FOIA regardless of their location.
June 30, 2016
President Barack Obama today signed a bill that significantly reforms and improves access to public records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The signing marked the culmination of open government advocates' battle to reform part of FOIA ahead of the law's 50th anniversary on July 4th. One of the most notable provisions is the law's mandate for agencies to operate from a presumption of openness, ensuring that information is withheld only under one of FOIA's nine exemptions. The bill codifies Obama's 2009 memorandum sent on his first day in office — which ordered federal departments to operate under this presumption.
June 29, 2016
The past month has seen a flurry of legislative activity by states seeking to regulate access to video from police body cameras. New Hampshire, Minnesota and Louisiana recently passed laws exempting some video from disclosure, while several other states are considering bills that place privacy restrictions on access. Bodycams have become increasingly popular as tools to ensure police transparency, but releasing the footage has prompted privacy concerns. Most state open records laws would consider body camera videos to be public records, but also include some exemptions from release for records that would violate a subject's privacy.