Study: Public Access To Information Bad And Probably Getting Worse

Published: Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 7:10am

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Federal law guarantees any person access to public records with a few exceptions.

Nine in 10 Freedom of information experts said in a recent study they expect access to public information to get worse.

“What we’ve seen is an increasing level of secrecy at all levels of government really developing over the past 20 or 30 years,” said the study’s author David Cuillier.

Cuillier serves on the Society of Professional Journalists’ Freedom of Information Committee and is director of the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism.

The Knight Foundation study surveyed 228 experts and includes interviews from 108.

Other takeaways include:

  • 38 percent of experts report they have been denied public records requests more frequently in recent years.
  • 51 percent said access to records got worse in the last four years.

Various studies find journalists are in the minority when it comes to public records requests, between 5 and 16 percent.

“This is about America’s ability to know what’s happening within its government,” Cuillier said. “Every person has the ability to go down to the town hall and find out what’s happening in their neighborhoods (and) look at public records.” 

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