David Yanofsky, a reporter for the Atlantic Media publication Quartz, has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to compel the Department of Commerce to release databases containing information about foreign travel to and from the United States. Attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are representing Yanofsky pro bono.
Despite acknowledging that the databases requested are agency records subject to FOIA, the DOC claimed that the databases are “not available under the FOIA,” denied Yanofsky’s request for a fee waiver, and informed him that he would have to purchase the records, which would cost more than $173,000.
The complaint, filed May 19 in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, states that the DOC “unlawfully refused to grant Plaintiff’s request for a fee waiver,” in addition to charging fees that violate FOIA.
“Access to government datasets is extraordinarily important for reporters, and especially data journalists like David Yanofsky. We believe strongly that journalists should be able to have access to these types of records without having to incur prohibitive fees,” said Reporters Committee Litigation Director Katie Townsend.
Yanofsky is seeking access to the databases to report on public policy matters related to trade and immigration. These records, Yanofsky says in an article about the lawsuit, “would tell us a lot about who is entering the country, and for what purpose, at a time when American border policy is under intense scrutiny.”
Documents related to the lawsuit can be found at https://www.rcfp.org/litigation#yanofskyvu
About the Reporters Committee
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was founded by leading journalists and media lawyers in 1970 when the nation’s news media faced an unprecedented wave of government subpoenas forcing reporters to name confidential sources. Today it provides pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists. Funded by corporate, foundation and individual contributions, the Reporters Committee serves the nation’s leading news organizations; thousands of reporters, editors, and media lawyers; and many more who use our online and mobile resources. For more information, go to rcfp.org or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.
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