FOI update: Illinois city council text messages ruled public; exemption caught in Connecticut; help for Ugandan media
By Whitney Evans | June 13th, 2012
Text Messages, Emails are Public Records in Illinois
A city council member in Champaign, Ill., tried to withhold text and email messages between council members in response to a records request by local media. The council member claimed messages were exempt since they were sent from personal devices. However, Sangmon County circuit court Judge John Schmidt ordered text and other electronic messages sent by the council to be turned over.
Exemption Caught in the Nick of Time in Connecticut
An exemption was proposed during a special legislative session in Connecticut that would allow the state to withold dealings with companies seeking financial assistance from the state.
“This is as outrageous an assault on the public’s right to know as one could imagine,” said Matt DeRienzo
The exemption would exclude records between the state and companies looking to grow or move into Connecticut that request financial help from the state “…provided the disclosure of such records could adversely affect the financial interest of the state, the business or organization.” Media outlets and FOI advocates took issue with the broadly stated exemption, originally slated to pass during the June 12 legislative session.
“This is as outrageous an assault on the public’s right to know as one could imagine,” said Matt DeRienzo, group editor of Group Register Company’s Connecticut publications on a Connecticut Newsroom blog post.
However, as media outlets reacted to the overly broad wording of the bill, the government responded: The amendment was stricken from Tuesday’s special legislative session.
Special Police Unit in Uganda
Uganda has created a special police unit to respond to abuses against media and journalists. The Press Unit comes at a much needed time for the country where there were 100 recorded cases of journalists being attacked in 2011.
“This development comes at a critical time when journalists in Uganda are starting to lose hope of getting justice for the numerous abuses and violations meted against them by both state and non-state actors,” said Henry O. Maina, Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, ARTICLE 19 reported.
* The June 6 FOI FYI blog post mentioned various testimonies during the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform’s hearing on the lockout policies set forth by the Department of Labor. We failed to mention that Lucy Dalglish, while executive director of Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, was testifying on behalf of the Sunshine in Government Initiative. The Sunshine in Government Initiative is a conglomerate of media groups, including the Society of Professionals Journalists, aimed at promoting government transparency.
SGI members (according to the SGI website):
- American Society of News Editors
- Associated Press
- The Association of Alternative News Media
- National Newspaper Association
- Newspaper Association of America
- Online News Association
- Radio, TV, Digital News Association
- Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press
- Society of Professional Journalists
Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email – firstname.lastname@example.org – or on twitter – @whitevs7
*Know something about Freedom of Information that you think we should cover in a blog post? We want to hear from you! Send information to wevans@HQ.SPJ.org. It may be featured in a future post.