Letter to FDA demands that agencies end news gathering constraints
The FDA Transparency Taskforce
c/o Joshua Sharfstein
Principal Deputy Commissioner
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20993
December 1, 2009
To the FDA Task Force on Transparency,
The organizations below, representing thousands of journalists, strongly urge the Food and Drug Administration to end practices that restrict the flow of information to the public. The free flow of information is essential to democracy. But in matters of health, even more is at stake: the ability of citizens to live healthful and productive lives.
We object to the requirement that journalists and FDA employees notify or obtain permission from an official to conduct an interview. And we object to public information officers listening to interviews. These relatively new practices hinder reporters' ability to learn the truth by inhibiting and sometimes barring employees from providing essential information.
Nearly all prior administrations allowed open communication between agency employees and the media. The FDA should restore this policy.
Public information officers can play an important role in answering questions and facilitating interviews. But when they forbid, delay or monitor contact between reporters and employees, they interfere with the public's right to know and can delay access to timely information necessary to protect and advance public health. Usually the most accurate information comes from federal employees closest to the facts, not a go-between. These practices are a disservice to Americans.
In keeping with President Obama's promise to make government more transparent and accountable, we hope FDA will end these harmful practices and restore the free flow of information.
We are happy to discuss this letter further with you.
To follow up, please contact journalist Kathryn Foxhall at 301-779-8239 (or by cell at XXX-XXX-XXXX) and firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Association of Health Care Journalists
American Society of News Editors
National Association of Science Writers
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National Newspaper Association
National Press Foundation
Radio Television Digital News Association
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of American Business Editors and Writers
Society of Professional Journalists
Individual journalists also signing this letter:
Deirdre Cox Baker
Betty Ann Bowser
The News Hour
Reporter, The Gray Sheet
Editor, FDA Webview/FDA Review/FDA Update
Freelance Medical Science Writer
The Gray Sheet
Health Care Journalist
Freelance Medical Writer
Independent Broadcast Journalist
Freelance Environmental Journalist
The Gray Sheet
Richard R. Kerr
Independent Investigative Journalist
Diana J. Mason
Director, Center for Health, Media, and Policy
Exceptional Parent Magazine
Bureau Chief/The Pink Sheet
Joseph M. Valenzano, Jr.
President and CEO
EP Global Communications, Inc.