Journalism groups demand end to FDA constraints

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 AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Eleven major journalism organizations, representing thousands of journalists, are demanding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration end requirements that journalists and FDA employees notify or obtain permission from an agency official in order to conduct an interview.

AHCJ, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Newspaper Association, the Radio Television Digital News Association and several other journalism groups were joined by more than two dozen individual journalists in signing the letter sent to the agency’s Transparency Task Force this week.

“These relatively new practices hinder reporters’ ability to learn the truth by inhibiting and sometimes barring employees from providing essential information,” says the letter.

The journalists also object to public information officers listening in on interviews.

“These restrictions have become increasingly widespread in federal agencies and other organizations,” said Charles Ornstein, president of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Reporters are forced to make an application, usually through the public relations office, for each conversation, however brief, and often must wait days for permission to speak to a staff member, he said. Even then, they sometimes have their requests ignored or denied entirely, he added.

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