President George W. Bush signed into law Monday a measure strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The FOIA gives Americans the ability to look inside the inner workings of government and hold elected officials accountable. The new law does not alter disclosure requirements or any of its exemptions; however, it improves the process by which the federal government can carry out the FOIA’s disclosure requirements. It creates an independent ombudsman to resolve citizen disputes, helps agencies strengthen the FOIA, creates a system for the public to easily track the status of requests and makes it easier for requesters to recover legal costs incurred when agencies improperly deny requests.
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) applauded the signing. “For years, freedom of information requests have gone ignored or been stonewalled by federal agencies” said SPJ president Clint Brewer. “This law will give working journalists and citizens alike the ability to fight back without first undergoing costly litigation.”
The SPJ and Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) were two of several organizations working to ensure the bill was passed and signed into law.