After opposing gag and sealing orders in the trial of former Massey coal CEO Don Blankenship on charges of conspiracy to violate federal mine safety and health standards — and cover-up — a news media coalition led by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press won access to the trial from a federal appeals court March 5, 2015.
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After a judge refused to reverse most of the secrecy ruling around the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster caused by Massey Energy's safety violations, including indictment of the company's former CEO, media outlets appealed. Now a coalition of many more media groups, led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the secrecy ruling as unconstitutional.Region:
For decades, U.S. politicians have made energy independence a patriotic platitude — with one result being a ban on exporting crude oil produced in the U.S. Now some oil companies are getting exceptions to the export ban for a product called "condensate," and the Commerce Department won't say why. So a coalition of environmental groups have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out.
Congress keeps secret the top-notch nonpartisan explainers from the Congressional Research Service. Or tries to. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project, you can read the reports your tax dollars paid for below.Topics on the Beat:
The Senate Judiciary Committee, despite changing from Democrat to Republican control, unanimously approved a FOIA bill (S 337) on February 5, 2015. A similar House bill (HR 653) was introduced February 2 and awaits action by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
A coalition of journalism and photography groups, including SEJ, objected to requirements for permits and fees for photography in the public parks of Fairfax County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC. In a February 4, 2015, letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), the 14 groups asked the agency to revise its rules to protect photojournalists' First Amendment rights.Region:
You may have read in recent WatchDogs about controversial federal laws and rules that could restrict photojournalism in federal parks, forests, and rangelands. Now comes the "Ansel Adams bill" that would make it legal to do an activity that is Constitutionally protected. Only someone has to introduce the bill. Photo: Ansel Adams, by J. Malcolm Greany.
The industry got Congress in 2005 to block the public from knowing about these chemicals, which can end up in people's drinking water. But the enviro groups, led by the Environmental Integrity Project, want to use a different law to help unlock the data.
One way to deal with bad press is to make it illegal. Exposés of inhumane conditions at feedlots and slaughterhouses are being made illegal by state legislatures that pass "ag gag" laws. Now a case in Utah is challenging whether industrial agriculture's claims of secrecy trump the eating public's right to know. Image: Sows in 7'x2' Smithfield Foods gestation crates. By Humane Society of the US [CC], 2010.