In a letter sent Tuesday, AHCJ President Ivan Oransky points out that “health care reporters, especially, must have access to complete and accurate facts because what we write influences life-and-death choices that people make.”
The statement praises Biden’s cordial relationship with the media and open coronavirus briefings earlier this year but adds: “Our members tell us that getting information from the federal government remains one of their biggest challenges.”
Oransky urges the president to adopt these policies:
- Restore unfettered access to experts and other federal employees.
- Provide regular briefings by the leaders of health agencies that are open to all reporters.
- Ensure that data the federal government gathers on health matters are up to date, accurate, transparent, and released quickly to the public.
- Clear the FOIA backlog and ensure timely responses to FOIA requests.
The letter acknowledges Biden’s “deep commitment to democratic ideals” but notes that “officials shielded from questioning, records locked away, doors guarded and closed — these are reminiscent of autocracy. Openness restores trust.”
The letter advances the work of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, which has long fought for open access to experts and information at every level of government and in the private sector. Recently, the committee successfully lobbied for open access to White House briefings and surveyed members to identify the top obstacles to obtaining information from government entities. The committee has also publicized legal findings that affirm the rights of private sector and government employees to speak with the media.