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Court restrains AP from publishing public records

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         TEXAS         Prior Restraints         Apr 6, 2000    

Court restrains AP from publishing public records

  • After a private company complained that a state agency gave confidential information to a reporter, a judge ordered the Associated Press not to publish the information.

A state court trial judge entered a prior restraint against The Associated Press on April 4, barring it from publishing information that it had obtained from a state agency under the state’s open records act.

Austin District Court Judge Margaret Cooper issued the temporary restraining order against the wire service at the request of Permian Sea Shrimp and Seafood, whose loan records had been released, and its bank, according to an AP report. The information at issue concerns a Texas agricultural loan program and was obtained by an AP reporter from the agriculture department in response to a request filed under the Texas Public Information Act, according to the AP report.

Cooper also stated that she wishes to hold an additional hearing before determining whether the information was properly released by the Texas Department of Agriculture, according to the AP.

The motion that Cooper granted argued that the information obtained by the AP included confidential trade secret material that the state agency should not have distributed to the news service. According to the AP, the information obtained from the state agency included information supporting the Texas Agricultural Finance Authority Board’s approval of a loan guarantee for Permian under a state loan guarantee program for small agricultural businesses.

A lawyer for the state agency told the AP that the state agency decided to release the information on the basis of a 1998 opinion letter from the Texas Attorney General’s office, which stated, “We believe that the public has a legitimate interest in how and to whom [the finance authority] awards agricultural loans, and we believe that this interest is served by releasing the summary financial information.”

(Media Counsel: David Donaldson, Austin)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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