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Publication date: Aug. 10, 2005

SEJ JOINS MEDIA GROUPS URGING GONZALES TO RETHINK ASHCROFT FOIA MEMO

One of the Bush administration's actions that did most to restrict public access to government information, many press groups say, was the so-called "Ashcroft Memo." SEJ has joined a coalition of other journalism groups in urging Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to review and change his predecessor's restrictive policy.

In an Aug. 1, 2005, letter to Gonzales, the groups urged Gonzales to reverse the Ashcroft decree that whenever there was discretion, the government's presumption should be to withhold, rather than disclose, information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Groups signing the letter included the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, California First Amendment Coalition, National Press Club, National Freedom of Information Coalition, Society of Environmental Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, Radio-Television News Directors Association, and the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government.

The groups wrote Gonzales that "a vigorous endorsement by the country's top law enforcement official of the underlying principles of openness embodied in the Freedom of Information Act would greatly enhance the enforcement of the act and would be influential in convincing the federal workforce that the current Department of Justice, which advises federal agencies on implementation, has not in any way retreated from those principles."


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