Tag Archives: First Amendment

Journalism groups ask candidates to take a stand on press freedoms

About Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer is AHCJ's vice president and chair of the organization's Right to Know Committee. She is a health care reporter for The Boston Globe.

Photo: Rhk111 via Wikimedia Commons

Will the next president respect the rights of a free press? It’s a question vital to democracy, yet rarely posed to candidates.

Hoping to make press freedoms a topic of discussion in the 2020 presidential campaign, the National Press Club’s Journalism Institute collaborated with other groups to develop a questionnaire that was circulated to all the candidates in November. Continue reading

Can agencies stop employees from talking to media? Brechner Center says no 

About Madeline Laguaite

Madeline Laguaite (@MLaguaite) is pursuing her master’s degree in health and medical journalism at the University of Georgia. Her area of interest is stories about LGBTQ health and mental health.

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

AHCJ joins groups calling president’s attacks on the media a ‘threat to democracy’

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.

Donald J. Trump

The Association of Health Care Journalists, along with more than 80 other organizations committed to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and the press, is alarmed by efforts by the Trump administration to demonize the media and undermine its ability to inform the public about official actions and policies. In a joint statement released today, the groups stress that the administration’s attacks on the press pose a threat to American democracy.

The statement cites numerous attempts by the administration to penalize and intimidate the press for coverage the president dislikes, including refusing to answer questions from certain reporters, falsely charging the media with cover-ups and manipulation of news, and denying certain media outlets access to press briefings.

Read more and read the statement.

Ruling has potential to impact patient care, advertising

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.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s John Fauber explains what a federal appeals court ruling this week might mean for patient care, television advertising and many other issues.

The case of United States vs. Alfred Caronia, a pharmaceutical company representative, “involved the right of commercial free speech, applying it to the complicated world of pharmaceutical industry promotion of prescription drugs.”

Caronia was prosecuted for making off-label promotional statements about Xyrem, a drug approved in 2002 to treat narcolepsy patients. He contended his statements were protected by the First Amendment, saying that the government couldn’t “prohibit or criminalize a drug company’s truthful, non-misleading off-label promotion to doctors.”

Fauber notes that “The appeals court essentially agreed, noting that Caronia never conspired to put false or deficient labeling on the drug.”

In his article, Fauber – no stranger to covering conflicts of interest in the medical industry – outlines the surprisingly far-reaching potential effect of the ruling – called a “watershed moment” by one source.

Reporters: Federal public affairs staffers block access to information

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.

Reporters who cover federal government agencies say they face impediments to getting information to the public because of interference from public affairs officers, according to a survey released by the Society of Professional Journalists. [Press release]sunshine-week1

About 70 percent of the 146 journalists who responded to the survey said they had a positive relationship with the public information officers with whom they work, and most reported that officers quickly respond to their queries most of the time.

However, overwhelmingly, comments from the surveyed journalists indicated increasing frustration at what they perceive as efforts by agencies to control the message to the public. “PAOs tend to make up information,” stated one respondent. “You can never trust the information they provide. They make our jobs almost impossible and they treat journalists with barely any professionalism.”

Carolyn S. Carlson, lead author of “Mediated Access: Journalists’ Perceptions of Federal Public Information Officer Media Control,” notes that reporters are “running into interference rather than assistance from the very people hired by the government to help them. Public affairs officers need to facilitate media coverage, not interfere or block it.”

The survey reveals that reporters have to get approval from public affairs officials before interviewing sources, something AHCJ and other journalism groups have protested in the past, and some agencies are not allowing interviews of employees. About 84 percent reported their interviews have been monitored by PIOs, another issue AHCJ has written about.

Journalists agreed that government control over who is interviewed is a form of censorship and that the public is not getting vital information as a result of these controls.

The survey was conducted by Carlson, an assistant professor of communication at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., and David Cuillier, director of the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on behalf of the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee, of which both are members. They were assisted by Kennesaw journalism student Lindsay Tulkoff.

Tell us about your experiences with HHS

Tomorrow AHCJ will hold our quarterly conference call with the HHS media office. This usually includes a summary of our members’ experiences with the various HHS media offices (CDC, FDA, NIH, NIDA, CMS, etc), as well as discussion of specific issues.

As always, we depend on you to inform these discussions. Have you interacted with HHS or any of its divisions in recent months? Felice Freyer, chair of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, would like to hear from AHCJ members. Please send her a quick note describing what happened, whether it was positive or negative. Are there any concerns you’d like us to raise with them? Please send your comments to felice.freyer@cox.net or share them in the comments below.

Survey: Only half of federal agencies have better FOI procedures

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

A report from the Knight Open Government Survey found that, despite some progress, federal agencies are only halfway there when it comes to delivering on the president’s day-one promise to improve FOIA procedures and openness across the board.

There is some cause for optimism there, as last year that number was about 14 percent. For the curious, Knight also provided a full PDF of how the 90 different agencies in the survey stacked up.

But before I highlight a few health-related entries, I can’t resist pointing out the survey’s methodology section, which will help explain how the results are organized.

The 2011 Knight Open Government Survey team filed FOIA requests with the 90 federal agencies that have chief FOIA officers, asking for copies of concrete changes in their FOIA regulations, manuals, training materials, or processing guidance as a result of the “Day One” Obama memorandum, and the March 2010 White House memorandum from then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House Counsel Bob Bauer. The Emanuel-Bauer memo told agencies to 1) update all FOIA material, and 2) assess whether FOIA resources were adequate.

The key takeaway then is that this is a measure of administrative regulation, and not one focused on responsiveness to actual FOIA requests beyond the one used to create each data point. With that in mind, here’s how our friends at health-related agencies stack up.

Concrete action on two steps


Concrete action on one step


No final response to FOIA request


No acknowledgement of FOIA request


Freedom of Information Audits and Government Transparency from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.