Public becoming more active in pursuit of goverment information, media less active

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The public’s interest in government transparency is growing and citizens are “becoming more active in asserting their right to government information,” according to a new survey from the Media Law Resource Center and the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

The survey also found, perhaps less surprisingly, that news organizations are less likely to sue for access to public information because of a lack of resources.

The new findings include both good news and bad, said Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

“If ordinary citizens are becoming more aware of their access rights, and more assertive regarding them, it is indeed a reason to be gratified,” he said. “However, if news organizations are trending toward being less gung-ho in an area once regarded as a matter of responsibility and stewardship, there is the frightening potential that journalism could suffer, as could the health of our democracy.”

Among the findings:

  • Media lawyers and representatives of the NFOIC member coalitions said they had seen an increased number of open government violations in recent years.
  • The number of open records requests made by private citizens and other non-media organizations has increased.
  • 60 percent of media lawyers surveyed noted a decrease in open government lawsuits by media organizations over the past five years.

The survey also looked at the prevalence and effectiveness of FOI hotlines, finding that they “got generally high marks from all respondents.”

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(Hat tip to Joey Senat, Ph.D.)

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