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Free press: Information requests still face daunting odds of success

An analysis by MuckRock, September 6, 2018, by JPat Brown, showed five ways government  agencies evade complying with the Freedom of Information laws. They not only fail to conduct the “reasonable” search for records required by the act but don’t even look at all; many agencies do not have the tech savvy to conduct a search; they are unaware they possess the records requested; the agency knows the records exist but are labeled differently from the request; and they go to ridiculous lengths to deny information.

Access to prisons is particularly difficult as authorities do not often respond to Freedom of Information requests. In trying to write about the April prison riot at Lee Correctional Facility in South Carolina, a reporter for a daily newspaper in Columbia has been stymied by prison officials who won’t answer her questions about the timeline of the uprising, when an ambulance arrived, when the SWAT team was called. The prison system has not honored her Freedom of Information requests for stats on deaths of inmates. (Columbia Journalism Review, September 6, 2018, by Alexandra Ellerbeck and Avi Asher-Schapiro)

One of the reasons for the poor response could be the lack of resources to process the massive number of requests. But FOIA requests have risen precipitously with the failure of agencies to provide information or documents that aren’t heavily redacted. (Federal News Radio, March 14, 2018, by Jory Heckman)

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