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SPJ joins amicus brief opposing Va. FOIA residency restrictions


For Immediate Release:

Sonny Albarado, SPJ President, 501-551-8811, spjsonny@gmail.com
Christine DiGangi, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 205, cdigangi@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists has signed on to an amicus brief written by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press that supports nationwide access to public records.

The brief filed in the case McBurney v. Young asks the Supreme Court to reverse a federal appellate court decision upholding a Virginia law that restricts access to public records. Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, only state residents have access to public information, and similar laws exist in Alabama, Arkansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Tennessee.

Even with an exemption for media outlets circulating within Virginia, VFOIA is unconstitutional, the brief argues. This exemption does not cover international outlets or online media that serve Virginia residents, and the brief notes that the other states with similar statutes do not have such exemptions.

“If this Court fails to void VFOIA’s citizenship provision, it would be in effect allowing states to continue practices of preventing all out-of-state media from obtaining public records, effectively shutting out companies and persons who cannot be considered citizens of those states,” the brief says.

The brief highlights access to information as a component of democracy and VFOIA’s citizenship provision inhibits the media’s ability to report on matters of public importance.

As a free press and free speech advocate, SPJ initiates and joins amicus briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases. Most recently, SPJ joined a brief supporting courts’ independence in evaluating Exemption 1 claims.

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 www.spj.org.


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