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Open Doors: Accessing Government Records
FOI Basics
FOI and the Courts
FOI and Privacy
FOI and Your Life
FOI and Daily News Coverage
Red Flags
FOI A to Z
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Freedom of Information
Covering Prisons
Project Sunshine: Find FOI Help
Accessing Government Records
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FOI Audit Tookit | PDF
Anti-SLAPP: Protect Free Speech
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FOI FYI: SPJ’s FOI Committee Blog
FOI Win in Georgia: Defamation Law Repealed
The flow of information: Reporting on water in the west
Judging the Freedom of Information Act in environmental court

FOI Committee
This committee is the watchdog of press freedoms across the nation. It relies upon a network of volunteers in each state organized under Project Sunshine. These SPJ members are on the front lines for assaults to the First Amendment and when lawmakers attempt to restrict the public's access to documents and the government's business. The committee often is called upon to intervene in instances where the media is restricted.

Freedom of Information Committee Chair

David Cuillier
Director and Associate Professor
School of Journalism
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Work: 520-626-9694
Bio (click to expand) David Cuillier, Ph.D., is director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he researches and teaches access to public records, and is co-author with Charles Davis of "The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records." He served as FOI chair 2007-11 before becoming a national officer and serving as SPJ president in 2013-14.

Before entering academia, he was a newspaper reporter and editor in the Pacific Northwest. He has testified before Congress on FOI issues twice and provides newsroom training in access on behalf of SPJ. His long-term goal is to see a unified coalition of journalism organizations fighting for press freedom and funded through an endowed FOI war chest.

Home > Freedom of Information > Open Doors > Red Flags

Mentor Match-up
Introduction | FOI Basics | FOI and the Courts | FOI and Privacy | FOI and Your Life
FOI and Daily News Coverage | Red Flags | FOI A to Z | Resources | Purchase a Copy

Red Flags

You Know you Have a Problem With FOI When:

A privacy coalition forms in your community or your state, perhaps in advance of an upcoming legislative session.

Newspapers receive a wave of letters or commentaries calling for more protection of personal privacy.

An elected official – governor, attorney general, legislator – calls for a special task force to address public access to government information. (NOTE: Such studies may be required by the law and, even if they aren’t, can be very productive in improving FOI laws and policies. However, FOI advocates should insist that their viewpoint is represented on any commission and that the leadership is not biased toward an anti-access view.)

A government agency announces a new policy to close certain records or institute new procedures for requesting records.

A government entity attempts to muzzle frequent “gadflies” or critics.

A judge suddenly closes a court proceeding and orders all observers out. (NOTE: Remember that courts are not subject to open meetings laws. However, any time a court proceeding is closed, journalists should make sure the judge has followed procedure and explain the rules surrounding courtroom closures to the public. The media also should be active in challenging courtroom closures that they believe are unwarranted or improper.)

Government files, which had been available, suddenly become unavailable.

A government employee wants to know “why you want” information or records.

A government agency increases the price of copies or duplication.

A government agency (or a local government) purchases a new computer system that stores information in a new format. (A format incompatible with yours.)

Meetings of deliberative bodies are held without notice.

Regularly scheduled meetings are re-scheduled to new times.

Meetings are held without printed agendas.

A government council, committee, or other decision-making body holds frequent “executive sessions” without fully explaining why.

Minutes from meetings are not available.

Your local television station or newspaper does a big “Don’t Let This Happen to You” story warning about potential violations of people’s privacy.

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