A voice in the wilderness finally heard

Wow. I am floored by the solidarity of journalism groups in pushing back against excessive information control by the federal government.

Since Tuesday when we sent a letter to Obama urging him to stop the secrecy, along with 37 other groups signing on, we’ve received even more support from other groups and a flood of interview requests and mentions from media around the world, including interviews with Fox News, USA Today, HuffPostLive (six minutes in).

Never before have I seen as many journalism groups come together on an issue, particularly one that has been relatively marginalized for years. I credit the tenacity of SPJ member Kathryn Foxhall, who has led the charge on this issue for several years. This D.C.-based freelancer has pushed, pulled and yelled, often shunted aside. Journalists have said it’s inside baseball and that reporters just need to buck up and do their jobs.

Kathryn did not give up. She worked with the National Press Club, Society of Environmental Journalists and other groups to drum up attention. She put on a press conference earlier this year in D.C. She helped former SPJ president and current Kennesaw professor Carolyn Carlson and the SPJ FOI Committee with survey research about the issue. She kept pushing for this letter.

It is finally paying off. Journalists now see that they don’t have to stand by and remain silent to these tactics. Such as today as the feds give a tour in Oklahoma for journalists of the facility holding children who tried to cross the border from Latin America. The Media tour restrictions prohibit recording devices, prohibit reporters from talking to anyone, and even prohibit reporters from asking questions.

We do not have to go along. We can push back. At all levels of government. Write about these controls. Do not accept the restrictions. Get Congress to pass a shield law and give the Office of Government Information Services the authority to punish agencies that are secretive and break the law.

Thank you, Kathryn. Let’s not just hold the line. It’s time to regain lost ground.

Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.


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