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SPJ President: FOIA reform vote important step in right direction for open government


Paul Fletcher, SPJ National President, 804-873-1893,
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134,

INDIANAPOLIS – The following statement may be attributed to SPJ National President Paul Fletcher regarding Monday’s House vote to approve the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (S. 337).

“A day later, the Society of Professional Journalists and other news media organizations are still celebrating the important step taken by the House of Representatives to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act. We strongly urge President Obama to sign these bipartisan reforms as we approach the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the original FOIA law on July 4, 1966. All signs are saying that he will.

“SPJ and more than 50 other journalism and open government organizations have been pushing for a more open and transparent government for quite some time. This is important for not only journalists, but the public as well. An open government is a healthy and robust government. When government leaders and agencies are allowed to keep information secret and hidden, journalists and citizens alike are kept in the dark and the foundations of American democracy fail.

“President Obama’s signature on this legislation into law will be a big step in the right direction. It will help to ensure that agencies release documents under a ‘presumption of openness.’ It means the process of obtaining records will be more efficient for citizens and journalists alike. And more records will be available, which means citizens and journalists will have better access to information that tells us what the government is or is not doing. For some recent examples of how FOI requests for public records shed new light on government actions and community issues, visit the Sunshine Week FOI in Action web page. It also means the FOIA Ombudsman will have the independence it needs to mediate FOIA disputes and make recommendations to Congress and the President on ways agencies can help improve FOIA responses.

“We are pleased that we are much closer to having a stronger FOIA as we prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of the original signing of the Act. This achievement is due to the hard work of the bill’s sponsors. We would like to join our Sunshine in Government Initiative partners in especially thanking House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md. for their leadership and hard work working on a bipartisan basis, as well as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chaired the committee in the 113th Congress and introduced the original House bill (H.R. 653). In the Senate, we appreciate the commitment and work over several years on a bipartisan basis by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Ranking Member Patrick Leahy , D-Vt. and John Cornyn, R-Texas. Their bipartisan, bicameral efforts help make our government more transparent and accountable to the public.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

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