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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Important New Pro-FOIA, Public Right to Know Proposals Coming in Congress

Three Members of Congress are my new best heroes this week because they are standing up for the public's right to know what our government is doing. The Hill's Jonathan Kaplan has an excellent story on the latest developments, which notes:

"Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) last week introduced the Free Flow of Information Act, which would establish a federal shield law to protect journalists' sources, who could be dissuaded from sharing sensitive information if they knew reporters could be compelled in court to release their names...
"'A free press is the only real check on the exercise of government power in real time,' Pence said, adding that he had talked extensively with the House Judiciary Committee's staff about the bill but had not spoken to Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).
"Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) plans to introduce a bill that would make the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a more user-friendly law for journalists and citizens who wish to obtain government information.
"If enacted, the bill would allow plaintiffs to recoup costs in FOIA lawsuits, lessen the burden of proof for citizens not associated with a news organization and tighten the time that government agencies have to respond to FOIA requests."

You can read the full Kaplan story by clicking on the headline above this post.

I have a new Knight Ridder Tribune Focus on FOIA column coming next week that will provide lots of details about the Cornyn bill, which is tentatively dubbed "The Open Government Act of 2005." If the Pence-Boucher and Cornyn measures survive mostly intact and are approved by Congress and signed by President Bush, 2005 will go down as a banner year for transparency in government.