SOURCE: Society of Professional Journalists

January 02, 2008 14:44 ET

SPJ Leaders Pleased Over FOIA Bill Signing

INDIANAPOLIS, IN--(Marketwire - January 2, 2008) - Journalists across the nation will start the new year off with an open government victory, thanks to President George W. Bush's signing the amended Freedom of Information bill. SPJ leaders received word Monday that the bill has been signed into law.

"Journalists and citizens everywhere can be a little more secure in the health of their democracy knowing the federal government can be held to a higher standard of accountability under this new law," Society of Professional Journalists President Clint Brewer said. "Unfettered access to the records of government is a cornerstone for a free press, as well as a sound, civil society. The American people have a right to know about the actions of their government, and those actions are most often told through the public record."

FOIA, as it is commonly called, is one of the strongest tools Americans have to supervise the inner workings of government and hold elected officials accountable. The FOIA law does not alter disclosure requirements or any of its exemptions. However, the law does improve the process by which the federal government can carry out FOIA's disclosure requirements. It creates an independent ombudsman to resolve citizen disputes, helps agencies strengthen FOIA, creates a system for the public to easily track the status of requests and allows requesters to more effectively recover legal costs incurred when agencies improperly deny requests.

"For years, freedom of information requests have gone ignored or been stonewalled by federal agencies," Brewer said. "This law will give working journalists and citizens alike the ability to fight back without first undergoing costly litigation."

To ensure the bill was passed and signed, SPJ worked alongside members of the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI), including the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Associated Press, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association, Newspaper Association of America, Radio-Television News Directors Association and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists 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 further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.

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