Democracy requires the free flow of information to the public, and never before has the public’s ability to obtain accurate, credible information about local and national affairs been so threatened. Through our policy work, the Reporters Committee advances journalism’s mission to keep the public informed by working to make governments at all levels more open.
Reporters Committee is working to strengthen federal source protections, identify model open records provisions around the country, defend newsgatherers from meritless lawsuits, and ensure the Justice Department adheres to strict standards for obtaining journalists’ records.
We work in collaboration with other news media associations through News Media for Open Government to speak with a united, nonpartisan voice on priority matters. We push back against today’s efforts to curtail the flow of accurate, credible information while promoting long term ways to advance press freedom.
The Reporters Committee brings a national perspective on debates about openness and restraints on newsgathering. To this end, our team has worked on various policy issues, all with one goal in mind: defending and strengthening news gathering.
FOIA: The Freedom of Information Act is a vital tool for members of the public, including journalists, to obtain records held by federal agencies subject to the law. The general purpose of FOIA is to promote access to information about the federal government and to ensure the public has information to participate in democratic governance. An agency must release records in its possession unless the record falls under one of the nine exemptions to disclosure. Yet agencies often take too long to reply or abuse FOIA’s exemptions to avoid embarrassment or unwanted headlines. The Reporters Committee supports improving the way agencies follow their obligations under open records laws and strengthening the law to better fulfill FOIA’s intended purpose.
Anti-SLAPP: Short for strategic lawsuits against public participation, SLAPPs have become an all-too-common tool for intimidating and silencing speech. Anti-SLAPP laws are meant to provide a remedy to SLAPP lawsuits. Although 31 states and the District of Columbia have state anti-SLAPP laws on the books, the Reporters Committee supports a federal anti-SLAPP bill that would fully protect journalists and individuals from these intimidating lawsuits. We also provide state-specific resources to let journalists know how anti-SLAPP lawsuits can affect them and their reporting.
State Policy: The Reporters Committee is also committed to highlighting concerns around state policies that limit government transparency or give too much discretion to elected officials. We’ve fought to allow journalists to cover meetings of the group that operates the power grid in New England, and in November 2018, we highlighted San Francisco’s Proposition B, which was approved by 57% of voters. Prop B greatly expands officials’ discretion to establish criteria for the city to use for all future privacy-related policies and agreements.
Our 2019 policy agenda highlights changes that can be made in both executive agencies and in Congress. We are pushing the 116th Congress to adopt reforms that protect journalists and ensure that their right to gather and report the news is not infringed upon.