National Press Club

National Press Club backs Senate bill to expand FOIA

June 27, 2014 | By Jeff Plungis |

The National Press Club is joining other media groups in endorsing legislation that would strengthen the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which journalists and the general public use to compel the release of otherwise hidden government documents.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, introduced the FOIA Improvement Act on June 24. The legislation would clarify that the government's FOIA ombudsman, formally known as the Office of Government Information Services, may issue advisory opinions that don't have to adhere to administration policy.

"The Freedom of Information Act is a vital tool for journalists in digging up the stories federal agencies don't always want the public to know about," National Press Club President Myron Belkind. "We welcome this effort to make the government more transparent to its citizens and the media."

The bill would make permanent the presumption of openness in FOIA requests the Obama Administration adopted by regulation in 2009. It would make agencies post online records that have been requested under FOIA at least three times. It would allow agencies to consider the public interest in deciding whether to reveal internal deliberations. The legislation would also encourage agencies to build public disclosure into electronic documents, keeping records better organized and maintained.

Other media organizations endorsing the bill include the Newspaper Association of America, the National Newspaper Association, the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of News Editors, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the Online News Association.

The National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club monitors threats to press freedom worldwide.