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Knight Foundation – Forecasting Freedom of Information

Forecasting Freedom of Information – Why it faces problems—and how experts say they could be solved, March 2017 — By David Cuillier, University of Arizona School of Journalism. A study commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“People must have access to reliable public information to make informed decisions and hold their elected officials accountable. Without transparent government at all levels—local, state and federal—representative democracy is threatened. For a generation, presidents of both parties have in different ways tightened controls on government information. “The natural progress of things,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned this study to better understand the landscape involving public access to government records by gathering information and insights from 336 freedom of information expert—journalists, advocates, record custodians, technology companies, scholars and others. In all, from December 2016 through January 2017, 108 experts were interviewed and 228 surveyed online. The study is not representative of journalists or society as a whole, but rather a cross section of those who deal with public record laws routinely. They are the active members, and in some cases the leaders, of America’s freedom of information community. Freedom of information is not decided only in Washington, D.C. All levels of government are involved, bringing into view a diversity of government officials. Our objective was to canvass experts to identify barriers to information access and possible solutions, looking broadly at the law, public education, networking and new technology. We found dissatisfaction, uncertainty and worry…”

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