Leader of the House of Commons Chris Graylng has criticised reporters who use FoI as a research tool, claiming it amounted to “misuse” of the legislation.
Mr Grayling was responding in Parliament to a question from Labour MP Jack Dromey when he made the comments.
Mr Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington, mentioned a similar campaign being run by city titles the Post and Mail in delivering his question.
He asked: “Does the Leader of the House therefore understand the concern being expressed in Birmingham and by the Birmingham Post and Mail over the threat now to Freedom of Information? And will he agree to an urgent debate on what is a threat to a cornerstone of our democracy?”
Mr Grayling responded: “The Freedom of Information Act is something this government is committed to but we want to make sure it works well and fairly. It cannot be abused. It cannot be misused.
“It is on occasions misused by those who use it effectively as a research tool to generate stories for the media. That isn’t acceptable.
“It is a legitimate and important tool for those who want to understand why and how government has taken decisions, and it is not the intention of this government to change that.”
The “Hands Off FoI” campaign was launched after the government set up an Independent Commission on Freedom of Information into possible amendments to FoI which is widely expected to seek to water-down the legislation.
Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors said: “It’s ridiculous to suggest that journalists are missing the Act. It was designed to inform the public and that is precisely what the media do.
“It is very worrying that such a senior minister seems incapable of understanding the role of the media in a democratic society. He should look at the amazing range of scandals exposed by regional journalists using FoI.”
Earlier this week Mr Dromey’s Labour colleague Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, told the Mail he favours calls for the government to refrain from changing the Act.
The Commission is looking at providing greater “protection” for internal discussions, which include Cabinet discussions and risk assessments by government and local authorities.
It will also examine the ministerial veto and whether anything should be done to limit the burden which local authorities are arguing the Act places on them.
Regional editors are being urged to write to MPs in their newspaper’s circulation areas to fight proposals to restrict the Act.