Joel Campbell Freedom of Information Committee Society of Professional Journalists Associate Professor Department of Communicatons Brigham Young University. Why Freedom of Information?. James madison.
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Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know.
-- John Adams
Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe.
-- Abraham Lincoln
We must never forget that the free flow of information is essential to a democratic society.
-- Bill ClintonIn the words of presidents
“When information which properly belongs to the public is systematically withheld by those in power, the people soon become ignorant of their own affairs, distrustful of those who manage them, and -- eventually -- incapable of determining their own destinies.”
John F. KennedyQuestion: Who said this?
Freedom of information is recognized in international law. Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provide that every person shall have the right to seek and impart information. An international court has recognized the right to seek information includes a right of freedom of information.A human right
Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, 303 F.3d 681 (August 26, 2002)
Successful challenge of closed court proceedings involving non-citizens following 9/11 terrorist attacks,A U.S. RIGHT TO KNOW
Right to ask
Some 86 countries around the world now have some form of Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation with many more considering or developing it. This trend gained momentum during the 1990s across the world.
The UK implemented its 2000 FOIA in 2005.
FOI legislation is pending in Brazil and Philippines.
Communist countries recognize basic information access rights.The IMPACT OF fOI
2. Increase accountability and decrease corruption
3. Improve the quality of government decision-making
4. Improve public understanding of decision-making
5. Increase public participation
6. Increase public trust
7. Increase security
Source; Stated goals of the UK FOIA 2000, National Security Archivegeneral goals of foi
Court hearings and implied record access
(Some First Amendment theorists have argued for that the First Amendment should extend to protect receiving and distributing information from government, but that has never been recognized by a U.S. Supreme Court majority)
U.S. Freedom of Information Act - FOIA (records)
U.S. Government in the Sunshine Act (meetings)
Utah Government Records Access and Management Act - GRAMA
Utah Open and Public Meetings ActFreedom of Information – “Sunshine Laws”
First records access law passed in Sweden (1766),
Anders Chydenius (1729-1803)
(pronounced Anders KyDenies)
Sweden’s Principle of Public Access means that the general public are to be guaranteed an unimpeded view of activities pursued by the government and local authorities; all documents handled by the authorities are public unless legislation explicitly and specifically states otherwise
FOIA was signed reluctantly by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. As Johnson's White House press secretary said years later,
"LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of the Freedom of Information Act; hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closets; hated them challenging the official view of reality. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House."
In fact, the bill was signed on July 4 without any signing ceremony.
Increased health risks in work places
Wasteful government spending
Travel of members of Congress
Homeland security expenditures
Audits of military bases
Biological and chemical exposures
Safety in national parks
501 c 3s – IRS Form 990 – Guidestar.orgStories Using FOIA
"I'm sure the administrators are getting nearly all of the bonus money," wrote one employee. "I've heard rumors that the chief receives up to $10,000,” wrote an employee in an e-mail.
After a three-year legal battle, the Salt Lake Tribune gained access to information about an extensive bonus program at Sandy City. a bonus program that disproportionately rewards top administrators from all city departments -- and even provides Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan with a $1,000+ "thank you" bonus, each year.Dolan's check pales in comparison to those received by city administrator Byron Jorgenson and 11 other city leaders who help administer the program, each of whom picks up the equivalent of about a month's salary in bonuses, year after year.
Meanwhile, most city employees who do get bonuses get the equivalent of a few day's pay. And hundreds get nothing at all.Sandy salaries - 2008
Lack of planning at front end of records storage development
Lack of data to formulate policy
Abuse of records – political participation
Culture of secrecy
Wikileaks syndromeFoi/GRAMA challenges today
-Public Tier II – police records
If they say…
If public interest outweighs private interest the record may be disclosed
Right to inspect records free of charge
Government cannot use form of record to restrict access.
No use test
No expertise testGRAMA
Source: National Security ArchiveFOIA
For all non-commercial requesters the first two hours of search time and 100 pages of copying free of charge.
If you are a representative of the news media, you are entitled to waiver of all search and review fees.
In addition, all fees, including copying, must be waived by the agency if the material requested "is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester."Fee waivers
http://www.rcfp.org/foiact/index.htmlFor More Information
Discussion of character, professional competence or physical or mental health of an individual
Strategy sessions for collective bargaining
Strategy sessions for “imminent” litigation
Strategy sessions to discuss the purchase, exchange, or lease of real property when public discussion of the transaction would disclose the appraisal or estimated value of the property under consideration or prevent the public body from completing the transaction on the best possible terms.Eight reasons to close a meeting
Strategy sessions to discuss the sale of real property when: value would be disclosed, notice of sale had been given, terms of sale are disclosed
Investigations of criminal misconduct
Discussion of “commercial information” for property tax appealsEight reasons to close a meeting
“Retreats” should raise a red flag.
Be careful of attorney-client privilege.
Challenge “stealth agendas
Question boilerplate closures.
Beware or “electronic meetings”
No votes for “executive sessions”
Beware of “work meetings” or “committee of the whole” meetings
Get the meeting documents
Beware of executive sessions for non-specific times and locationsTop 10 Meetings Tips