FOIA Policy: Many Journos Surveyed Say "Wait" Before "Release to All"

September 7, 2016

A key issue on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is "Release to One, Release to All." That is: once a government record is released to a single FOIA requester, should it then be automatically released to any other requester and the general public?

"Yes" was the answer from most of over 100 journalists surveyed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) this summer. But with an important caveat — wait long enough so that my journalistic competitors don't scoop me.

RCFP published the results of its survey August 30, 2016. Support for the policy was high among the journalists overall — 79.7% supported it with or without conditions. But importantly, those included a large share (57.9%) who supported it with conditions, such as a delay before releasing information to additional requesters. The length of delay they typically thought appropriate varied from a day to a month.

A "Release to One, Release to All" pilot program was conducted by a handful of federal agencies, and the new federal Chief FOIA Officers Council is considering extending it government-wide.

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