2008 Archives: SEJ Speaks on FOI Issues

December 19, 2008
SEJ voices concern over axing of CNN enviro-science units

The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) joined several national and international science journalism organizations in writing a strong letter to CNN regarding its "shortsighted decision to cut its science, technology and environment unit in one fell swoop.... at a time when science coverage could not be more important in our national and international discourse." 

May 6, 2008
SEJ joins in suit on officials' e-mails

The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) joined other journalism groups May 6, 2008, in filing a "friend of the court" brief in a Washington state lawsuit seeking access to public officials' e-mails under state law. Many reporters use e-mail messages obtained by FOIA requests or other means as the basis for high-impact stories about government corruption or malfeasance. 

March 26, 2008
SEJ opposes EPA exemption for CAFO toxics info

SEJ has submitted comments opposing an EPA rule change that would exempt farms from publicly reporting releases of toxic air pollutants. The exemption would apply principally to releases of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases from manure storage pits and lagoons.

In its comments, SEJ said that, "if information about airborne contaminant releases is no longer reported, the community right-to-know principle is made sterile." 

February 14, 2008
SEJ questions Environment Canada scientist restrictions

SEJ followed up on a February 1, 2008, Canwest News Service report that "Environment Canada has 'muzzled' its scientists around the country, ordering them to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers will help them respond with 'approved lines.'"

In the letter, SEJ expressed concerns that the policy change "may hinder journalists' efforts to adequately cover environmental issues and the ministry" and requested copies of the "previous and the current official written policies on media communication, as well as the dates they took effect." 

February 6, 2008
SEJ opposes defanging of FOIA ombud office

SEJ urged Congress to use its funding power to establish a new independent "ombudsman" office to oversee how the federal government performs its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The action was taken after President Bush sent Congress a budget moving the office from the independent National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to the Justice Department, which is tightly controlled by political loyalists.

"The OPEN Government Act established OGIS specifically at NARA," SEJ President Timothy B. Wheeler wrote. "It did so because of concerns that DOJ has the responsibility to defend government agency clients in litigation brought by public records requesters, creating a conflict of interest."  


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