Posts Tagged ‘Julian Assange’

FOI Daily Dose: Privacy exemption limits most FOIA requests

Privacy is the most frequently cited exemption for denying Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication.

The study compiled 15 years of annual FOIA  report data for 13 cabinet-level departments, excluding Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services because they mostly receive individual requests for personal records.

Of the nine exemptions that limit the free flow of information act, agencies used privacy exemptions more than 232,000 times last year, or 53 percent of the time, to deny requests.

The exemption has not been applied so broadly since the fiscal year of 2002 in the wake of Sept. 11.

The exemption is meant to protect personnel and medical flies, information that would constitute “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” and law enforcement information that “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” according to the study.

FOI DAILY DOSE: WikiLeaks founder wins journalism award, EPA oversight threatened

Julian Assange wins journalism award

WikiLeaks founder and head honcho Julian Assange has won the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.

The annual award is presented to a journalist who has “told an unpalatable truth that exposes establishment propaganda.”

The 2011 judges said in their citation for the prize that Assange “represents that which journalists once prided themselves in – he’s brave, determined, independent: a true agent of people not power.”

WikiLeaks has become a point of controversy in discussions of transparency, especially concerning the criminal charges against alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.

The six judges voted unanimously for Assange.

House bill jeopardizes EPA oversight

A House bill introduced last week supports the removal of federal oversight from the Clean Water Act.

The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 would strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to revise state water quality standards, veto U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge and fill permits and oppose state-approved permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

The measure was introduced by representatives John Mica (R-FL) and Nick Rahall (D-WV).

Mica, in a press release, said that the EPA “continues to strangle economic growth in this country with its overreaching and arbitrary regulatory regime.”

According to an OMB Watch blog post, however, the agency is following statutory mandates and is not overstepping its bounds.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI DAILY DOSE: PBS hacked over WikiLeaks story and Australian Broadcast Corp. slammed for secrecy

PBS website hacked over Frontline episode

For a brief time on May 30, Tupac Shakur lived.

Well, a story posted on the Public Broadcasting System website early Monday morning claimed he was still alive.

The false story, which explained that the famous rapper hadn’t actually died in 1996 and was living in New Zealand, was one of the pranks pulled on the news organization by a group of hackers.

Lulzsec, an anonymous hacking group, claimed responsibility for the Memorial Day weekend hacking spree. The cyber assault on the website was triggered by the hackers’ disappointment in PBS Frontline’s May 24 “WikiSecrets” episode about whistleblower Bradley Manning that broadcast last week.

The Lulzsec Twitter account includes a May 31 tweet to the WikiLeaks account that says, “@WikiLeaks We hope our hacking gave Bradley Manning a smile. That man deserves something nice.”

In addition to the fake story on Shakur, e-mail addresses and passwords for PBS affiliates, bloggers and third-party media outlets and reporters who signed up for access to PBS clips and photos were also released by the hackers.

They also added a calling card on the website at that read “All your base are belong to Lulzsec.”

PBS Frontline released a statement in which the show’s executive producer, David Fanning, called the cyber attack “irresponsible and chilling” and said it was “an attempt to chill independent journalism.”

Australian Broadcasting Corp. FOI controversy

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) has refused to release information on its audience data and employee salaries to The Weekend Australian and the Herald Sun, two Australian newspapers.

The ABC is using a programming exemption for FOI that covers documents with “a direct or indirect relationship to program material,” according to an article in the Weekend Australian.

The Herald Sun’s request for information on the ABC’s salaries for its TV and radio personalities was also met with a tight-lipped response by the media corporation.

The controversy stems in part from the fact that the ABC is withholding information despite the fact that it is a taxpayer-funded company.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).



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