What was the biggest threat to a free press in 2015? Government Secrecy.

January 11, 2016 by
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Jonathan Peters, the press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review and an attorney and an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, asks himself the question: “What was the most serious threat last year to a free press in the US?” His conclusion was that the biggest concern in 2015 was clearly “government attempts to shield information and events from public view.”

  • Government secrecy was the biggest threat to a free press in 2015. Will this year be better?, by Jonathan Peters, Columbia Journalism Review (January 8, 2016).

    Take these examples: A township sued a citizen who requested public records to obtain relief from its duty to respond—and even asked for attorney’s fees. State lawmakers tried to kill a program designed to help citizens resolve FOI disputes without litigating. Other lawmakers used Sunshine Week to propose bills to make it more difficult for citizens to record police activity. A police chief prohibited a citizen from photographing public records as he reviewed them. The federal government paid The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, a financial settlement after detaining two of the paper’s journalists and deleting some of their pictures, all because they photographed the exterior of a military manufacturing plant—capturing only what was plainly visible from the public street. States continued to keep secret their capital-punishment protocols. City police stonewalled requests for records related to Freddie Gray’s death. St. Louis County prosecutors charged journalists in connection with their Ferguson newsgathering. State university employees interfered with journalists as they tried to document campus protests.

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