For immediate release
Kevin Smith, SPJ President, 304-367-4864,
Karen Grabowski, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 215,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is upholding its mission to protect open government and Freedom of Information laws by joining an amicus brief written by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press that supports the Shepherdstown (W. Va.) Observer in its battle to attain records of petition signatures that should be public. The amicus brief was filed Friday, April 16.
The decision to not release names of the petitioners, who were calling for a referendum of a new zoning ordinance for the county, was made by County Clerk Jennifer Maghan. Maghan based her decision on the privacy concerns of the signatories to the petition. The Jefferson County Circuit Court upheld her determination, and the Observer turned to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to challenge the decision, arguing that the petitioners’ signatures should be public under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
SPJ joined the Reporters Committee in filing the brief that supports the Observer, which contests that the state’s preparation and retention of the records makes them subject to the West Virginia FOIA.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ 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 more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.