Christine Tatum, President, (303) 881-8702
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists, which works to improve and protect journalism, commends the United States Senate for passing a bill that would dramatically help Americans access public information.
Senate Bill 849, also known as the OPEN Government Act, would significantly reform the federal Freedom of Information Act. FOIA, as it is commonly called, is one of the strongest tools Americans have to supervise the inner working of government and hold elected officials accountable.
“Americans are much closer to being able to access information that is rightfully theirs,” said SPJ National President Christine Tatum, an assistant features editor at the Denver Post. “For too long, the federal government has fallen down on the incredibly important job of informing the citizenry of its actions. I salute Congress for taking steps to clean up years of inexcusable neglect.”
Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the bill, which would provide a tracking system for records requests, set meaningful deadlines by which the government must respond to requests, establish an ombudsman to assist records requestors and create guidelines that could make it easier for requestors to recover legal fees associated with their requests.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a nearly identical version of the bill in March. In May, a secret hold was placed on the Senate bill by Sen. Jon Kyl (R- Ariz.), whose action effectively blocked the bill from a Senate vote on May 24. The bill got moving again after SPJ unmasked Kyl and named him “Senator Secrecy.”
“This particular legislation is a powerful reminder of SPJ’s great work to improve and protect journalism and to promote the free flow of information,” Tatum said. We hope more journalists will join SPJ because there is still much more work to be done.”
The Society of Professional Journalists is one of the nation’s largest and oldest journalism –advocacy organizations. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ and SDX, please visit www.spj.org.