2007 Archives: SEJ Speaks on FOI Issues

December 12, 2007
SEJ president testifies at Interior photo-fee hearing

The Society of Environmental Journalists told the House Natural Resources Committee Dec. 12 that the Interior Department could unduly restrict news media access to parks and refuges with its proposed rule requiring fees and permits for "commercial filming."

SEJ President Timothy B. Wheeler testified before a full committee oversight hearing called by Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) that a proposed rule governing photography in National Park System units and Wildlife Refuges represents an unwarranted infringement on journalists' ability to cover natural resource issues on public lands. 



November 7, 2007
SEJ urges removal of farm bill secrecy provision for livestock ID

The Society of Environmental Journalists and six other journalism groups urged Senators to drop from the 2007 farm bill an unusual secrecy provision for information in the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The NAIS is a database for tracking livestock from birth to market to help stop disease outbreaks and protect consumers from unsafe food. The provision in the Senate farm bill could criminalize publication of simple information like the location of a feed lot, even if it were already in the public domain.

Joining SEJ were the National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc., National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, National Press Foundation, and UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. 

October 19, 2007
SEJ comments on proposed DOI commercial filming rule

The Society of Environmental Journalists was joined by eighteen other national journalism organizations in submitting comments on the Department of the Interior's "Proposed Rule: Making Motion Pictures, Television Productions, Soundtracks or Taking Still Photographs on Certain Areas Under the Jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior."

The proposed rule impacts permits and fees for commercial filming on parks, refuges, and other public lands. SEJ expressed strong concern about several issues in the proposed rule, which could have a negative impact on the First Amendment rights of a free press, and suggested specific ways of improving the rule to alleviate these concerns. Specific concerns included charging for still photography, definitions of "news" and "freelancers," and restrictions on audio recording. 

  •  SEJ's official comments of October 19, 2007, on DOI's proposed rule in MS Word or plain text format.

June 1, 2007
SEJ supports Toxic Right-to-Know Protection Act

The Society of Environmental Journalists wrote members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today urging passage without amendments of the Toxic Right-to-Know Protection Act.

In the letter, SEJ President Tim Wheeler notes that the bill would reverse the Environmental Protection Agency's recent change to the rules for reporting thresholds under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, hence restoring the rights of the U.S. public to be fully informed about potentially dangerous chemical exposures they may face, and the news media's ability to inform them of those risks. 

May 17, 2007
SEJ backs OPEN Government Act of 2007

In a letter today, SEJ urged Senator Harry Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell to move to the Senate floor S.849, the OPEN Government Act of 2007. The bill proposes reforms to the 41-year-old Freedom of Information Act urgently needed to help FOIA meet citizens' needs, for timely and comprehensive access to government information.

Stating that SEJ has "been thwarted in our efforts to report what the government does and knows, sometimes with serious consequences", the letter cites the lack of response of government agencies to FOIA requests post-Katrina as one such example. 

February 20, 2007
SEJ voices concern over new DHS rail hazmat secrecy proposal

SEJ submitted comments on new secrecy rules related to rail transport of hazardous materials being proposed by the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation.

SEJ's concern is about the excessive and largely unchecked secrecy this proposed rule would impose through the provisions relating to 'Sensitive Security Information,' a pseudo-classified category of information set up under a vague, decades-old legal authority. 


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