News

Format: 2017-04-28
Format: 2017-04-28
March 31, 2017
Communications service providers are constantly faced with demands to turn over their customer’s records to law enforcement. But Microsoft found that when it was served with these demands, they were all too often accompanied by gag orders with no ending date, forbidding them to talk about the demand or tell their customer that their records were involved. So the tech giant decided last year to sue the government over those gag orders in federal court in Seattle, and in February, it overcame the first hurdle by beating back the government’s effort to have that part of the case dismissed.
March 30, 2017
Allison Jean White as Kate, Christopher McLinden as Prince William and Robert Joy as King Charles in the American Conservatory Theater production of King Charles III, directed by David Muse. Photo by Kevin Berne.
February 23, 2017
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed an amicus brief opposing compelled testimony of John Sepulvado, a former reporter with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), which was authorized by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his first week in office. Sepulvado had interviewed Ryan Bundy, one of the Malheur Natural Wildlife Refuge occupants, about the purpose of the occupation in January 2016.
February 17, 2017
The Federal Bureau of Investigation no longer will allow individuals seeking public records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to file requests via email, according to several reports, and several other agencies are following suit. The FBI's FOIA page already has removed any mention of an email submission option, though it has notified some requesters that it will allow email requests until the end of this month. According to the agency page, requesters now have to submit written requests by fax or standard mail, or they can use an online portal system called eFOIA. The FBI used to allow for requests to be filed via email in addition to the online portal system.
February 14, 2017
A court decision that resulted in an 85-day jail stay for reporter Judith Miller will be re-enacted and re-examined this afternoon by a number of prominent attorneys and judges. The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit will host the examination of the oral argument in In re Judith Miller, a 2004 reporter’s privilege case heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The event, which is part of the historical society’s annual program highlighting a significant issue before the D.C. Circuit, will take place from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the Ceremonial Courtroom on the sixth floor of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse.
January 27, 2017
Charges have been dropped against one of the seven individuals arrested and charged with felony rioting while covering the anti-Trump protests last Friday, according to a filing by the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. Superior Court. Evan Engel, who works at the news site Vocativ, had been released pending trial last weekend. The rioting charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. “After consultation with the counsel for Mr. Engel, who is a journalist with Vocativ, as well as a review of evidence presented to us by law enforcement, we have concluded that we will not proceed with the charge against this individual,” prosecutors said in a media statement. Engel's lawyer is former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.
November 8, 2016
As France continues to push the envelope in terms of enforcing a worldwide “right to be forgotten,” free press advocates in the U.S. have stepped in to help Google defend itself from an order to delist content across the global Internet.  Reflecting concern for newsgathering protections, as well as access to information for readers, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a media coalition of 28 news and journalism organizations today urged the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court, to strike down an order requiring Google to cleanse search results across all domains worldwide.
October 17, 2016
"Democracy Now!" journalist Amy Goodman announced to a crowd outside the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, N.D., that Judge John Grinsteiner refused to formalize charges against her for participating in a riot while she was covering a pipeline protest in the state. Goodman originally faced a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass in response to her Sept. 3 coverage of a protest against the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. She learned the trespass charge was dropped when she returned to North Dakota to continue reporting on the protests, but late last week learned that the state's attorney wanted to bring a more serious charge of participating in a riot.
August 31, 2016
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is publishing the results of its survey of journalists on the "release to one, release to all" policy under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). More than 100 self-identified journalists responded to the survey. Respondents to the survey were generally in favor of a “release to one, release to all” policy if it is implemented with a delay between release to the requester and release to the public. While a quarter of respondents supported the policy unconditionally, almost 60% support it only with conditions, such as a delay period.
July 28, 2016
The Pentagon has updated its Law of War manual to clarify that journalists are generally protected as civilians under international law. The changes, announced last week, came after media groups expressed concern that some language in the original version could put reporters at risk of being considered spies or combatants. The manual, first released in 2015, is the Department of Defense’s guide to international law as it applies to the U.S. military. The original manual drew criticism for saying that although journalists are usually civilians, they can sometimes be “unprivileged belligerents” — a category that includes guerrillas and spies.
July 25, 2016
The Chief FOIA Officers Council, charged with addressing the most important difficulties in administering FOIA across government, met for the first time July 22 to begin the process of implementing a “release to one is a release to all” standard for federal records. The policy would make agencies release FOIA-processed records to one requester and simultaneously to the general public by posting them online. Concerns about the policy from both journalists and FOIA officers were addressed at the meeting. Many reporters worry that releasing requested documents to the public would compromise their reporting by allowing others to steal their “scoop.” Agency FOIA officers were troubled by the burden of ensuring records are accessible to all and in compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
July 15, 2016
Federal authorities can withhold mug shots from release due to privacy concerns, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Thursday. The court, sitting en banc, overturned its 1996 decision, which held that there was no privacy interest to justify exempting federal mug shots from the Freedom of Information Act. The new ruling will not necessarily keep all mug shots from being released, but it will require a case-by-case consideration of whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs privacy interests. “A disclosed booking photo casts a long, damaging shadow over the depicted individual,” Judge Deborah Cook wrote for the majority in the 9-7 decision. The majority argued that the digital age has made privacy concerns even more pressing.
July 13, 2016
A week after the Freedom of Information Act’s 50th anniversary, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing that addressed next steps for improving and enforcing the law. The July 12 hearing also celebrated the passage of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, which President Barack Obama signed into law on June 30. The four witnesses at the hearing praised the law’s accomplishments, which include creating a “presumption of openness” toward disclosing records, as well as requiring the government to create a single online portal for FOIA requests. The law also ensures greater independence for the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the FOIA ombudsman.
July 7, 2016
Following almost two weeks of pressure from free speech groups and press coverage, a Georgia district attorney moved to drop felony charges against a newspaper publisher and his attorney earlier today.
July 6, 2016
Agency records can be subject to the Freedom of Information Act even if they are kept in an employee’s nongovernmental email account, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science and Technology Policy reversed a decision by a district court, which dismissed the case last year. The D.C. Circuit’s decision could set an important precedent for journalists and other FOIA requesters by clarifying that agency records are subject to FOIA regardless of their location.