Senator John Kerry today announced his support for a legislative initiative designed to assist the freedom of the press. The bill would make the federal Freedom of Information Act more powerful, primarily by making it harder for the Administration to deny or delay the release of information. It does that by requiring that an agency respond to FOIA requests within 20 business days and establishes a publicly available tracking system for requests.
In addition, the legislation would help bloggers, because it would prevent agencies from denying them a waiver on fees just because they are independent or not affiliated with any institutional news organization. In the past, the need to pay fees for FOIA requests discouraged many bloggers or independent journalists from pursuing FOIA requests.
“There is no greater or more important watchdog today than our free press and we should all do everything we can to strengthen the ability of dedicated reporters to do their job,” Kerry said today. “Recent news reports on Walter Reed, the Big Dig, or even the US Attorney firings have reminded us just how important the press’s oversight is to our system of governance. In cases like those, exposure meant the difference between life and death. I am proud to sponsor this bill and look forward to voting on it when it comes before the full Senate.”
John Kerry and FOIA
This effort by Kerry to make it easier for journalists -- even those, such as bloggers, that are unaffiliated with a major news organization -- to get access to government documents is a great move by the Senator. From the Kerry for Senate blog: