SEJ Urges Obama to Take Stand on Bipartisan FOIA Bills

November 5, 2014

The Society of Environmental Journalists wrote President Barack Obama October 23, 2014, urging him to take a strong position supporting legislation that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Bipartisan FOIA improvements may be one of the few pieces of legislation with a chance to clear the lame duck 113th Congress before control shifts to Republicans in 2015. One version of the legislation (HR 1211) already passed the House by an overwhelming 410-20 vote on February 25, 2014.

SEJ's letter came at the same time as one sent by a coalition of other journalism and open-government groups, led by The White House has been silent so far on the pending FOIA legislation, despite Obama's pledge to lead the most open administration in history. The groups urged the President to do more than simply support pending bills. Rather, they hope he will help make permanent as law policies — such as the purported presumption of openness — that exist merely as executive policies in his administration.

"We have been encouraged this year to see bipartisan bills that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act moving in both House (HR 1211) and Senate (S 2520) moving in Congress," wrote SEJ President Jeff Burnside. "But without an extra impetus, no such legislation may be enacted in the 113th Congress. It surprises us to note that your administration has not taken a public position on these bills, and we hope you can offer leadership that will make a difference."

Among the groups signing the coalition letter were the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, American Civil Liberties Union, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Association of American Publishers, American Society of News Editors, and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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