The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
About us Reading room FOI services Press releases Briefs & Comments Hotline Donate Contact us menu

SEARCH THE SITE




RCFP Reading Room

Read our online publications dedicated to helping journalists understand important aspects of media law.


Cover Image

Our quarterly magazine:
The News Media
& The Law

Summer 2009
Juvenile Justice and Openness


Reporters Committee's Challenge 2009

Please consider donating to our fundraising campaign


Shields and Subpoenas

Keep up to date on the unprecedented number of federal subpoenas and shield bills in Congress.


FOI SERVICES

Get Freedom of Information assistance, including our Automatic FOI Letter Generator.


Get it by e-mail

Have the latest news stories e-mailed to you every two weeks.

Sign up for news releases from the Reporters Committee


View our press releases


View our amicus briefs, protest letters, public comments, and other documents.


HOTLINE

Journalists can call our toll-free legal defense hotline with questions about how the law affects the gathering and reporting of news.


ABOUT US

Who we are and what we do -- information about our history, our mission, and our Steering Committee.

We also have bios of our current staff, and information on working with us as an intern or legal fellow.


This site is designed to provide information to journalists and media lawyers at any time, and to let you know of the services and support we offer.

Journalists needing help with specific questions or problems can send us a message or contact us by phone at 800-336-4243.


RSS news feed

 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   U.S. Supreme Court · October 9, 2009 · Freedom of information

U.S. asks court to delay detainee abuse photo decision

The Solicitor General has asked the Supreme Court to postpone its decision to hear arguments in the case over whether abuse photos of detainees in U.S. custody should be released to the public because if a pending Homeland Security Appropriations Bill is signed into law, the government may have the authority to exempt the photos from release and the appeal would be unnecessary, she contends.

The Supreme Court was set to consider the case at its conference today, but Solicitor General Elena Kagan urged the Supreme Court to postpone its decision in a letter sent to the court Thursday.

The House and Senate had already both passed the bill and sent it to a conference committee to reconcile the differences. On Oct. 7, the committee released a conference report that contained an amendment that “codifies the President’s decision to allow the Secretary of Defense to bar the release of detainee photos.”

The original amendment was introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and passed the Senate in July. House . . . [more]

Miranda Fleschert, 3:20 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 QUICKLINK   U.S. · October 9, 2009 · Prior restraints

New military policy prohibits photos of troops killed in action

The agreement journalists must sign to become embedded with a military unit in Afghanistan now includes a prohibition against any photographic or video coverage of U.S. troops killed in action, according to a copy of the latest agreement.

As recently as July,  the ground rules journalists agreed to in order to receive a media badge at Regional Command East stated that "media will not be prohibited . . . [more]

Amanda Becker, 1:07 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   Washington, D.C. · October 8, 2009 · Freedom of information

Congress again seeks to ban release of torture photos

Barring the release of photos depicting abuse of detainees in U.S. custody was again the subject of a legislative amendment in the U.S. Senate this week when language that supports President Obama's intent to keep the photos from public disclosure was attached to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations voted yesterday to amend the appropriations bill to include language, which was proposed by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,  that “[c]odifies the President’s decision to allow the Secretary of Defense to bar the release of detainee photos,” according a  conference summary issued by the committee.

Congress has been wrestling with a photo ban amendment since last summer when Graham and Lieberman first added the language preventing disclosure to an appropriations bill that landed in the Senate in July. House Democrats previously refused to agree to a similar amendment proposed by Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Tex., and Heath Shuler, D-N.C., and removed the provision from . . . [more]

Miranda Fleschert, 5:46 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   U.S. · October 7, 2009 · Internet regulation

New FTC guidelines may affect electronic journalists

The Federal Trade Commission approved on Monday final revisions to new guidelines that will require manufacturers and bloggers who work for them to disclose the exchange of free merchandise.

The guidelines are meant to apply to those who are paid to promote products, not those who are engaged in journalism, but drawing a line between the two is often difficult, and ultimately will have to be decided by courts if the FTC chooses to prosecute a blogger who is engaged in journalism.

The revisions, which are not a law but rather the FTC's interpretation of existing law in light of new technology, mark the first time the commission has updated its guidelines since 1980.

The revisions included sweeping changes that seek to make the relationship between bloggers and manufacturers more transparent. Bloggers who receive free merchandise must now disclose it on their blog; manufacturers who distribute free merchandise have the duty to inform bloggers they must disclose it.

Thought the commission's guidelines carefully distinguished between new media and traditional media, legal . . . [more]

Brooke Ericson, 4:53 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   U.S. Supreme Court · October 6, 2009 · Prior restraints

Justices hostile to ban on animal cruelty images

Supreme Court justices signaled their concerns about the constitutionality of a decade-old law that criminalizes depictions of animal cruelty on Tuesday during the oral arguments in U.S. v. Stevens, a case that involves the conviction of a Virginia man who made videos that included dog fighting.

The statute used to convict Robert J. Stevens provides for up to five years in prison for anyone who “knowingly creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain.”

Stevens was sentenced to 37 months in prison for distributing documentaries that include footage of dog fighting, but the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (3rd Cir.) overturned his conviction last summer, striking down the entire statute on First Amendment grounds.

At today’s . . . [more]

Rory Eastburg, 5:40 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 QUICKLINK   U.S. Supreme Court · October 5, 2009 · Secret courts

High court refuses to block release of church abuse records

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a Catholic diocese’s second request on Monday to stay a Connecticut Supreme Court's order to unseal court records related to dozens of clergy sex abuse suits.

The case, Rosado v. Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp., involves more than 12,000 pages of documents related to lawsuits against several priests. On Aug. 25, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg . . . [more]

Rory Eastburg, 5:07 pm   ·   View reader comments (2)


 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   7th Cir. · October 2, 2009 · Broadcasting

Judge reprimanded for allowing cameras in courtroom

An appellate judge criticized a federal district court judge on Monday for allowing video recording and still photography at a court hearing.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th Cir.) issued a memorandum reprimanding U.S. District Court Judge Billy McDade, saying allowing the cameras violated a policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States, a resolution adopted by the Seventh Circuit’s Judicial Council, and a local rule of the district court.

McDade apologized, explaining that he thought he had the authority to allow cameras, but . . . [more]

Rory Eastburg, 5:45 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   Florida · October 1, 2009 · State open government

Florida court orders NCAA to hand over records

A Florida appeals court upheld Florida’s open meetings law today and ordered the National Collegiate Athletic Association to hand over documents related to secret disciplinary proceedings against Florida State University.

FSU met with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions behind closed doors on Oct. 28, 2008 to explain a self-reported 2007 rules violation. The NCAA issued its response to last year's meeting with the university on June 2. When media organizations made records requests, school officials denied them, citing a cyber confidentiality pact with the NCAA.

FSU officials told reporters that the school’s outside counsel entered a confidentiality agreement with the NCAA that prevented them releasing the documents, which the NCAA made available to FSU in a read-only format through a password-protected Web site.

Media outrage ensued, said Bob Gabordi, executive editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, FSU’s hometown newspaper. He quoted his own June . . . [more]

Ansley Schrimpf, 5:47 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 QUICKLINK   Oklahoma · October 1, 2009 · State open government

Eight officials charged with violating Oklahoma's open meetings law

Eight county officials in Oklahoma have been charged with 38 violations of the state's Open Meetings Act, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

Five members of the Okmulgee County Criminal Trust Authority and the county's sheriff, police chief and commissioner are charged with taking unauthorized votes, not recording votes and failing to give notice of action taken, among other misdemeanor violations of Oklahoma's Open Meetings Act.

Oklahoma is one of a handful of states that attaches criminal . . . [more]

Kirk Davis, 5:30 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 QUICKLINK   Washington, D.C. · October 1, 2009 · Reporter's privilege

Obama administration publicly dissatisfied with Senate's federal shield bill

The Obama administration proposed substantial changes to the pending federal shield bill that would weaken its protections against compelling journalists to testify in the interest of national security, The New York Times reported.

The administration told Congress that the federal shield bill being considered in the Senate should include a new, broad exception in cases involving government leaks that would cause “significant” harm to national security and that . . . [more]

Cristina Abello, 5:15 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 QUICKLINK   U.S. · October 1, 2009 · Freedom of information

Federal judge orders release of Cheney's leak interview

Most of the FBI's interview of former Vice President Dick Cheney about the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity must be released to the public, a federal judge ordered today.

The 2004 Cheney interview was part of an FBI probe into the leak of Plame's covert identity after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly argued the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence information to support an assertion in the 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had purchased . . . [more]

Ansley Schrimpf, 5:12 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 PRESS RELEASE   · September 30, 2009 ·

Reminder: "Barbecue with a View" benefit

Don't miss the annual "Barbecue with a View" on Sunday, October 11, 2009. Reserve your space now!

This year's benefit is hosted by the law firm of VInson & Elkins LLP. Tickets are $75 and all proceeds benefit the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

See you there!

— Posted at 6:29 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   Florida · September 30, 2009 · State open government

Nonprofit receives additional $750,000 in legal fees

A Florida city must pay approximately $750,000 in additional legal fees to government transparency advocates, a Florida judge ruled last week.

Last March, the nonprofit group Citizens for Sunshine and a citizen activist were awarded attorney's fees in a lawsuit against the City of Venice where they exposed violations of the state's open records and open meetings laws. The parties settled the suit, which exposed the city's failure to maintain and archive city e-mail accounts and led to a change in its policy and practice. Friday's ruling brings the total fee award to $1.4 million, The Associated Press reported.

The City of Venice had attacked the fees requested by Anthony Lorenzo and Citizens for Sunshine asserting that their attorneys "padded their billings," "prolonged litigation" and billed multiple lawyers for identical work. 

In his order granting the fees to Lorenzo and Citizens for Sunshine, Sarasota County Judge Robert Bennett generally rejected . . . [more]

Kirk Davis, 6:11 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   U.S. · September 30, 2009 · Freedom of information

Openness has improved, but FOIA reform still needed

Despite President Barack Obama's emphasis on running a more transparent government, federal agencies have been slow to adapt to changes in the law and the new openness directives, open government advocates testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

The focus of the hearing was the Office of Government Information Services and other key provisions of the Open Government Act of 2007 -- primarily whether they have been implemented and whether they are effective. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., spoke at the hearing about the importance of a transparent and accountable government.

"We have the right to know what government is doing -- more importantly, a right to know when the government screws up," he said. He noted that increasingly, government agencies have been removing information from their Web sites, which he attributed to "part paranoia, part national security concern and part 'don't want you poking around,'" which he said bothers him most.

Witness Tom Curley, president and CEO of The Associated Press, . . . [more]

Amanda Becker, 6:09 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   U.S. · September 29, 2009 · Freedom of information

Report criticizes SEC's compliance with FOIA

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Inspector General released a report on Friday that sharply criticized the agency’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

The report, released just two years after an audit prompted reorganization of the commission’s FOIA processing system, shows an agency still struggling to meet public access demands and recommends that it restructure its FOIA leadership, improve its processing mechanisms and create a more adequate appeals system.

A main criticism in the report was that the SEC grants such a small percentage of records requests and fills them at a slow rate. While most federal agencies reported they fully granted 41.8 percent and partially granted 18.7 of requests, in fiscal year 2008 the SEC only granted 10.5 percent and 2.9 percent respectively. More than half the time, the SEC's response to a request was "no information found" and it denied 3.9 percent of requests entirely. On average, other agencies found no information for only 13 percent of requests and denied 4 percent . . . [more]

Ansley Schrimpf, 4:15 pm   ·   Comments: 0


 QUICKLINK   Colorado · September 28, 2009 · Internet regulation

Web sites with anonymous comments denied university press passes

A recent story on a football game in the INDenver Times highlighted a Colorado University press policy that limits which Web sites are granted press passes to cover athetic games.

INDenver Times said it had turned off the online comments section on a story about Colorado University's win against the Wyoming Cowboys because the school will not give press passes to Web sites without a print or broadcast component unless they prohibit the posting of anonymous comments, the Denver Westword's news blog . . . [more]

Brooke Ericson, 5:22 pm   ·   View reader comments (1)



Search:

Send comments & tips

Subscribe by email

RSS feed

Follow us on Twitter

Find us on Facebook


News categories:

Broadcasting

Freedom of information

Intellectual property

Internet regulation

Libel

Newsgathering

Prior restraints

Privacy

Reporter's privilege

Secret courts

State open government


News keywords:

[list alphabetically]

Public Records

Shield Law

Open Records

Defamation

Confidential source issues

Subpoenas

FOIA

E-mail

Sealed records

Legislation

Internet

Lawsuits

Secrecy

Sealed cases

Police

Libel

FOIA reform

White House

Public officials

Photography & videotaping

List all keywords



Search:

Limit by date:

Fr:

To:

Category

Sort by
relevance
date