Friday, December 14, 2007

Senate passes Freedom of Information Act reform

The U.S. Senate passed today some of the changes journalists sought in the federal Freedom of Information Act. Now the House, which passed a stronger version, will be asked to go along.

The Senate bill, which passed unanimously, "does not alter FOIA’s disclosure requirements or any of its exemptions. However, the legislation does improve the process by which the federal government can carry out FOIA’s disclosure requirements," says a Society of Professional Journalists news release. "It creates an independent ombudsman to resolve citizen disputes, helps agencies strengthen FOIA, creates a tracking system for the public to easily track the status of requests and it allows requesters to more effectively recover legal costs incurred when agencies improperly deny requests.

“This is an important step to ensuring open access to the public record by journalists and all citizens,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said. “Freedom of information is at the heart of an open government and a free press. We encourage leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass this legislation.”

SPJ backed reform as part of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, which also includes the American Society of Newspaper Editors, The Associated Press, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Newspaper Association, the Newspaper Association of America, the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. (Read more)

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