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SPJ joins letter to Florida legislature opposing public records fees


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1/28/2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jan. 28, 2016

Contacts:
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 has joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 23 other journalism organizations in sending a letter to Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, and Rep. W. Gregory Steube, R-Sarasota, objecting to two bills that would alter Florida’s Sunshine Law.

Currently under the law, a public-records requester who is successful in litigation is automatically entitled to have the opposing government agency reimburse his or her attorneys’ fees. The bills under consideration would change the law so that the reimbursement of attorneys’ fees in such cases would no longer be mandatory.

“Imposing these types of fees on the public and journalists will most certainly hinder some from making public records requests, which in turn does a huge disservice to Florida’s longstanding commitment to government transparency,” said SPJ National President Paul Fletcher.

The proposed legislation runs contrary to the trend at the federal and state levels, the letter explains, which has been in favor of making awards of attorney’s fees in public records litigation mandatory.

“Members of the public and press must have access to government records, without financial hurdles, in order to better hold government officials and agencies accountable,” Fletcher said. “We are deeply disappointed that the Sunshine State, of all places, is considering legislation that would cast such a shadow on open government and transparency.”

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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