The state of Florida last week settled a lawsuit with the Orlando Sentinel, agreeing to provide weekly COVID-19 reports within two days and pay the newspaper’s legal costs.
It was a victory for the newspaper, and for press freedom. Our experience contains lessons – and encouragement – for other newsrooms facing obstruction by state or local officials.
Before filing suit, we persistently sought the documents for weeks, through informal and formal channels. We repeatedly told our readers about our efforts and the state’s decision to withhold information, keeping the issue alive in the public’s eye. Continue reading →
AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee is launching a new strategy for tracking and combating the obstacles that health care reporters confront when seeking information.
Starting today, journalists can quickly and easily report the difficulties they encounter as soon as they occur, by clicking on the “Trouble Getting Information?” link on AHCJ’s homepage (on the right side, under “Advocacy”). Continue reading →
The Association of Health Care Journalists strongly urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to keep public all data related to COVID-19 hospitalizations and to post the numbers as soon as they are available.
The Trump administration ordered hospitals to stop reporting COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send patient information to a central database in Washington, D.C., starting this week.
Public employees have the right to speak to the press without going through the boss, but workplace gag orders continue to violate their freedom of speech, says a report from The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, a nonprofit educational center.
The findings could have particular implications for health care journalists, the center’s director says.
Federal, state or local agencies often impose policies that restrict an employee’s ability to speak with reporters. In a report released in October that examines employees’ First Amendment rights, the center urges news organizations to challenge those rules. Continue reading →
The Association of Health Care Journalists has joined the Society of Professional Journalists and 25 other journalism and open government groups in urging every member of Congress to support unimpeded communication with journalists for all federal employees.
“It is essential to public welfare and democracy that this issue is addressed. Not allowing experts to speak freely to reporters is authoritarian and keeps sources from explaining a variety of things that are the public’s business,” the groups say in a letter sent to Congress members today.
“This ‘Censorship by PIO’ works in tandem with other assaults on free speech including restrictions on public records, threats and physical assaults on reporters, prosecution of whistleblowers and threats of prosecution against reporters.”
Many groups in the coalition of organizations have been working for several years to spark changes in the restrictions put on federal employees and the lack of freedom to speak to journalists. For more than a decade, AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee has pressed federal officials to improve journalists’ access to federal experts.
Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.