First Amendment News

An "earnest and diligent effort" to supply FEMA records remains stalled after 40 months

A reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune describes his long-running effort to use the federal Freedom of Information Act to learn how FEMA’s “Rapid Needs Assessment Teams” sized up needs in Louisiana’s storm-ravaged communities. Bottom line: He’s still waiting. – DR Point of View BROKEN RECORDS Three years later, FEMA still giving out excuses, not documents Sunday, January 25, 2009 Mark Schleifstein Last week, I got my annual letter from FEMA letting me know someone

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Dixie Chicks face defamation lawsuit after using court records

In defending themselves against a current defamation charge, the Dixie Chicks may use the “fair report privilege”. The privilege holds that statements are not defamatory if they are fair and accurate and derived from official sources. Terry Hobbs is suing the Chicks of wrongly accusing him of murder. -DB Citizen Media Law Project Jan. 22, 2009 By Sam Bayard The defamation lawsuit against Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines and her band mates over an open

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Working press not happy with access to Obama

The White House press corps is negotiating with the administration over access. Photojournalists were not allowed to take photos of Obama on his first day of office, and no TV cameras or photographers were allowed at the second oath of office. -DB First Amendment Center Jan. 23, 2009 News organizations that cover the White House sparred with the Obama administration over access issues for photographers and rules for briefings. Representatives from Obama’s press office held

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Arkansas judge says public arrest records will remain sealed

An Arkansas circuit judge says he and his colleagues in two counties voted to continue their practice of sealing arrest records for felon criminal cases. They are acting they say to guarantee a fair trial in spite of an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling in 1990 that the records are public information. -DB The Morning News Jan. 23, 2009 PINE BLUFF — A judge says that while arrest affidavits are public record, they will remain closed

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Obama administration transparency not assured by websites

Columbia Journal Review editor Megan Garber argues that while President Barack Obama’s early efforts to create a more open government are welcome, the nation must not be satisfied with mere improvement over the Bush administration. It remains to be seen if Obama’s failure to provide access to the press during the campaign will continue into his administration and damage the ability of the press to evaluate his administration. -DB Columbia Journalism Review Jan. 21, 2009

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