Tags : right to know

IRE nomination call for most secretive government agency or individual

The Golden Padlock Award. Photo: Travis Hartman

Investigative Reporters and Editors is now welcoming nominations for its second annual Golden Padlock award recognizing the most secretive government agency in the United States.

“This award acknowledges government officials across the country who excel in the art of suppressing public information,” said David Cay Johnston, president of IRE. “Undermining the public’s right to know can be tireless work. We seek out the very best to be broadly recognized with this honor.”

Nominations should be emailed to goldenpadlock@ire.org including the name of the government department or individual along with reasons ...

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Michigan agencies estimate thousands of dollars for access to records

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration had preached transparency, according to the Lansing State Journal, but is charging exorbitant amounts for access to state contract records.

The Lansing State Journal sought contracts from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, the repository for 1,200 contracts worth $32 billion between the state and outside vendors. The Journal filed a freedom of information request  to it, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the state lottery bureau for contracts. Reporter Kristen M. Daum now writes that Development Corp. officials estimated a cost of $1,7000 just to allow a reporter to review ...

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Civil Beat in Hawaii announces creation of new public records law center

Journalists from an online news service in Hawaii have started a public service law center to help citizen’s navigate the state’s open record laws.

Honolulu-based Civil Beat reports that Hawaii has decent public information laws, but in practice state and county government fail to follow and enforce the law. Patti Epler of Civil Beat describes the law as such:

“We've found that it's common for agencies to routinely reject — without good reason — requests for reports, documents and other information that should be readily available. They sometimes simply ignore legitimate inquiries from the press and the public ...

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Countries with longtime FOI laws have less corruption, better human development

The Center for Law and Democracy rates FOI law effectiveness by country.

Freedom of Information Act advocates have consistently claimed that institutionalizing the right to information will benefit countries, particularly in addressing corruption.

They are not lying.

By comparing indices on corruption, human development, and years of having an FOI law across 168 countries, I found support to the assumption that having an FOI law leads to lower levels of perceived corruption.

Also, countries with older FOI laws tend to have higher levels of human development than countries with younger FOI laws or countries without them.

An intriguing link, however ...

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FOIA Machine sees early success on Kickstarter

On July 16, a team of journalists and developers launched a Kickstarter campaign for a project called FOIA Machine. They asked for $17,500 to build a tool to help journalists and citizens request public information -- a “TurboTax for government records,” the team called it. Two days later, they passed that goal.

A week later, they doubled it. The project, originally sponsored by The Center for Investigative Reporting, had more than $35,000 -- $15,000 of which is matched by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri – from 1,131 backers.

Now, FOIA Machine has a ...

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Getting Past “No” when government pushes back

By Kathryn Sharkey

“How many people in here have filed federal information requests … and how many of you have been told no?”

The room, during the panel “Getting past ‘No’ when government pushes back” on Friday of the IRE Conference, was filled with raised hands and chuckles as Jack Gillum from the Associated Press got a feel for the room and said, “oh good, then this is the place for you.”

Gillum, Chicago Tribune reporter David Jackson and Davis Wright Tremaine attorney Angela Galloway, a former reporter, said the best way to get your Freedom of Information Act request seen ...

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Finalists announced for Golden Padlock award

Investigative Reporters and Editors has released the list of finalists for its inaugural Golden Padlock Award honoring a U.S. government agency for its unrelenting commitment to undermining the public's right to know.

  • JobsOhio: Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature are nominated for creating a non-profit economic development entity exempt from public records disclosure laws, despite its financing by state grants and bond sales backed by $100 million in profits from the state liquor store monopoly. JobsOhio was spun off from the state's Development Services Agency and staffed by former agency employees at much larger salaries ...
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Open government advocates say additions to California budget bill would devastate public records law

The California legislature has added wording to the state budget bill that open government advocates say would devastate the state's public records laws.

The added language would allow government officials to turn down records requests without written record of the basis for denial. Officials would no longer need to cite legal reasons for withholding information. The 10-day deadline for officials to respond to public records requests would be removed. Officials would no longer be required to provide electronic records in the desired format of the requester, nor would government workers be obligated to help members of the public understand ...

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Fear drives lack of public access in Maine

By Judy Meyer

Maine is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to public access.

Blame technology.

The very computer systems and databases created to improve the flow of information and ease public access are now being held up, by lawmakers, as troublesome portals to be sealed shut in the interest of personal privacy. That easy access to public records is something to fear.

While fear is a good motivator to move people to action, it’s a poor foundation for drafting good public policy. But fear works, and lawmakers increasingly seem more moved by emotion than by information ...

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What journalists can learn from this year's Sunshine Week

Journalists don't need more reason to celebrate public records, but Sunshine Week provides a time for swapping tips and tricks, successes and horror stories. The EditorialMatters blog in Iowa spent the week posting tips like advice on requesting records, finding stories in those records, and avoiding all-too-common mistakes. Watchdog Wire shared their own tips on being a transparency watchdog.

The SPJ celebrated Sunshine Week by sharing their directory of FOIA resources by state. Anyone can look up laws, organizations and contact information for local experts at a glance.

The week of March 10-16, 2013, was full of open government ...

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