Reporters Committee launches online guide to appealing federal FOIA denials

Press Release | August 1, 2012

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has launched a comprehensive, online guide to appealing federal Freedom of Information Act requests that will help journalists navigate the administrative process more effectively on their own.

“We based the guide on some of the most common FOIA questions we hear from journalists around the country, both through our legal hotline and in conversation at media events,” said Reporters Committee FOI Director Mark Caramanica, who developed the guide in collaboration with Reporters Committee Jack Nelson FOI Fellow You-Jin Han. “It will be particularly useful to independent journalists and those at news organizations who don’t have ready access to legal counsel to help file appeals.”

The entire Federal FOIA Appeals Guide is available free on the Reporters Committee website. It serves as a companion to the popular Federal Open Government Guide, also available free online.

The appeals guide opens with an overview of the federal FOIA appeals process, then drills down to the specifics of each of the nine exemptions. The guide also provides tips on challenging agencies’ adverse determinations on procedural points such expedited review, fees, excessive delays and responses such as “no records” or “not an agency record.” It also examines software and copyright issues, the Privacy Act, and options before litigation, such as utilizing the Office of Government Information Services.

As an additional resource, the guide links to sample appeals letters drafted by leading media lawyers, as well as to customizable templates for drafting requests and appeals.

Research and production of the Federal Freedom of Information Act Appeals Guide was made possible by a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

About the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation

Founded in 1961, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) public foundation that is dedicated to ensuring that those who carry on the tradition of a free press are prepared for the challenge. Its goal is to support the educational programs of the Society of Professional Journalists and to serve the professional needs of journalists and students pursuing careers in journalism.

About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· Federal FOIA Appeals Guide

· Open Government Guide