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SPJ Applauds House Vote on FOIA Reforms



Jan. 11, 2016

Paul Fletcher, SPJ National President, 804-873-1893, pfletcher.spj@gmail.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists joins other members of the Sunshine in Government Initiative in applauding the U.S. House of Representatives for approving the “FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015" (H.R. 653), which improves the Freedom of Information Act.

“This legislation helps journalists and other citizens better access their government, and today’s vote proves that Congress can work together to make government more transparent and accountable,” said SPJ National President Paul Fletcher. “Congress doesn’t approve FOIA fixes very often, so getting this legislation through the Senate and signed into law would be a big win for transparency and helping the American people obtain the information they are entitled to see.”

The Sunshine in Government Initiative is a media coalition that has worked to increase government transparency for more than 10 years. The coalition is focusing this year on a campaign to #FixFOIAby50 to mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing FOIA into law on July 4, 1966.

SGI members appreciate the bill's sponsors, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) as well as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut.), for crafting bipartisan legislation that takes significant steps to address many challenges that requesters, including the media, face when using FOIA.

Specifically, H.R. 653 codifies the current "presumption of openness” policy, thereby ensuring agencies follow a pro-disclosure policy in future administrations. Among many improvements to FOIA, the bill gives the Office of Government Information Services (the “FOIA Ombudsman”) the independence that Congress intended when Congress created that office in 2007. In addition, it creates a single portal for all agencies to accept requests from a requester and takes several steps to improve management of FOIA.

“We hope the Senate will soon follow the House’s lead so we can celebrate a stronger, improved FOIA,” Fletcher said.

For more information and resources, visit SPJ’s “Fix FOIA by 50” web page and the “Fix FOIA by 50” Sunshine in Government resource center.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit spj.org.


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