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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

2008 FOI Summit in Philadelphia

They're a less patient lot in the United States where last week the National Freedom of Information Coalition held the 2008 FOI Summit, with what sounds like a great program, and a call to arms to fight for First Amendment rights in a keynote speech by Toni Locy, who faces a $5000 fine for every day she refuses to reveal her sources for stories about the 2001 anthrax attacks in the US. (Thanks to Charles Davis for the lead).

A former investigative reporter Ted Gup told participants that "journalists need to do a better job of explaining to readers why they should be concerned about expanding ''secretocracy'' in government and how it directly affects their lives

Proceedings included an FOI Hero award for Bill Chamberlin of the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project.

Those pushing for change here might have all benefited from this panel discussion:
Coalition Care and Feeding—How do you keep that fledgling FOI group going, or take the next step? Join veterans of the FOI game who have "been there, done that" for tips on sustainability.


  1. Peter,

    Some very good points. However the Australian Right To Know coalition, after some good research and lobbying efforts seem to have largely left the field.

    I was hoping that they would have a continuing agenda and not be content with a few commitments for change made by 1 government (as opposed to a truely national campaign aimed at both the States and the Commonwealth).

    There is a need to both build a constituency for change and to constantly monitor performance. The Americans have done this activity extremely well.

    I am at a loss that the ARTK and Australian Press Council have not organised a national conference to debate the issues and to motivate and nuture future research.

    I am being approached by an increasing number of journalism and law students undertaking research in this field.

    The lessons from FOI experience around the world is that information management requires constant attention and adjustment. It also needs a well informed and vigilant FOI community.

    The ARTK coalition is in an ideal position to take a number of steps to help develop that community in Australia.



  2. Peter Timmins1:21 pm


    I share your disappointment. Even when the Federal Government comes good on its commitments,there is along list of other matters that need attention in Canberra and the states.The Coalition is well placed to lead,but publicly at least,is hard to find or hear.