SOURCE: Society of Professional Journalists

December 14, 2007 18:27 ET

SPJ Leaders Commend Passage of Amended FOIA Bill, Hope House Will Take Similar Steps

INDIANAPOLIS, IN--(Marketwire - December 14, 2007) - The passage of notable reforms to the nation's Freedom of Information Act should be commended, leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists said Friday.

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. In August, the Senate passed an earlier version of this bill, S. 849, the OPEN Government Act, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The bill, which was passed unanimously by members of the 110th Senate on Friday, does not alter FOIA's disclosure requirements or any of its exemptions. However, the legislation 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 tracking system for the public to easily track the status of requests and it allows requesters to more effectively recover legal costs incurred when agencies improperly deny requests.

"This is an important step to ensuring open access to the public record by journalists and all citizens," SPJ National President Clint Brewer said. "Freedom of information is at the heart of an open government and a free press. We encourage leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass this legislation."

To ensure the bill's passage, SPJ worked alongside members of the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI). Members of the Initiative include 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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