Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Journalists, open government groups pen another letter to Obama asking for more transparency

More than 50 journalism and open government groups sent a letter this week to President Obama urging him "to stop practices in federal agencies that prevent important information from getting to the public," reports the Society of Professional Journalists, which was one of 53 groups to sign the letter. The Obama administration has been accused of repeatedly dodging information requests from reporters and government agencies.

Groups twice last year sent similar letters to Obama but received non-response responses that failed to address key concerns and claimed the Obama Administration is transparent, reports SPJ. The most recent letter urges "changes to policies that constrict information flow to the public, including prohibiting journalists from communicating with staff without going through public information offices, requiring government PIOs to vet interview questions and monitoring interviews between journalists and sources."

David Cuillier, chair of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee, said, “President Obama pledged to lead the most transparent administration in history, but we have yet to see this promise fulfilled. His term may be coming to a close, but it’s not too late to make some real changes in the way officials work with journalists to improve the accuracy and speed in which important information is relayed to the public." (Read more)

SPJ conducted a study in 2012 of 146 reporters who covered government, finding that 76 percent "said they had to get approval from a public information officer before speaking to an agency employee; two-thirds said they were prohibited by the agency from interviewing an employee at least some of the time," Paul Farhi reported earlier this year for The Washington Post. The vast majority—85 percent—agreed with this statement: 'The public is not getting all the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists’ reporting practices.'" (Read more)

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