Media representatives support electronic records law
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Journalists would benefit from passage of the Electronic Freedom of Information Improvement Act introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.), according to testimony by Jane E. Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Eileen Welsome, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter formerly with the Albuquerque Tribune, who spoke on behalf of several media groups.
They testified in mid-June before the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight’s Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology in its first hearings on open government issues. The hearings also covered proposals concerning the Government in the Sunshine Act, a bill to increase access to war crime information, and measures designed to increase medical record privacy.
Subcommittee chairman Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) and minority subcommittee member Rep. Carol Maloney (D-N.Y.) spoke favorably of the need for the passage of the electronic FOI bill which would give requesters the right to receive information in any reasonable format they request. The bill contains provisions intended to reduce agency delays in responding to requests. It also provides for expedited processing of requests which concern issues of widespread media attention that involve allegations of agency wrongdoing.
In a second-day panel, Washington attorney Allan Adler said the bill would allow agencies greater flexibility in meeting the needs of requesters. Robert Gellman, former counsel to the House subcommittee addressing Freedom of Information Act matters, testified that FOI Act problems do not lie in the act but in the failure of agencies to make the act work. James Lucier, an economist with Americans for Tax Reform, said that government will fall behind corporate America if it does not use electronic information to its full potential. (S. 1090)