Thursday, January 28, 2021

Four Groups Call for Ending Bans on Federal Staff Talking to Reporters Without Oversight

At least four organizations have written to the Biden Administration calling for significant actions to support a free press, including changes to eliminate restrictions that force reporters to notify or be overseen by public information officers or other authorities.

--The Society of Professional Journalists calls for ending the restraints on reporters speaking to employees. (Coverage in The Hill newspaper.)

--The Society of Environmental Journalists calls for the administration to appoint people in the press offices who adhere to truth-telling, responsiveness and openness; restore daily briefings; ensure agency employees are free, “encouraged even” to talk directly with reporters without press office permission; reverse Trump Administration restrictions on FOIA; support the Journalists Protection Act or similar measure; direct federal law enforcement to avoid physical harm to journalists; and support the shield law legislation to ensure reporters can keep sources confidential.

---The News Media for Open Government calls for daily briefings at the White House and regular briefings at agencies; ending restrictions that prohibit employees from speaking to the press without notifying public information officers; interpreting FOIA in a way that provides more disclosure; supporting the Office of Government Information Services Advisory Opinions; providing for protection of confidential sources; and reversing a Trump administration rule that would limit the time foreign journalists may stay in the U.S.

---The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University calls for narrowing or withdrawing policies that restrict public servants from participating in policy debates; publishing White House visitor logs; imposing new limits on the surveillance of journalists; rescinding the orders to explore options to narrow legal protections for social media platforms; and several other actions. (This may be the most comprehensive statement on free press issues.)

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