HoldtheFrontPage has submitted its archive of stories about how regional press journalists have used the Freedom of Information Act as evidence in the forthcoming review of the legislation.
The government has established an Independent Commission to look at the workings of FoI with the window for submissions due to close at midnight on Friday.
Ahead of the deadline, HTFP has sent the Commission its extensive archive of 204 stories dating back to 2007, as evidence of how the Act has been used by local journalists in the public interest.
As part of this, the site has highlighted a series of examples of regional newspapers who used FoI to highlight major issues of concern in their areas.
These include the following:
• Sheffield Star reveals “entrenched sexual exploitation problem” following Freedom of Information request: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2015/news/regional-daily-reveals-reports-on-child-sex-crimes-after-foi-request/
• Ipswich Star reveals “alarming” obesity levels among town’s hospital patients: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2013/news/papers-foi-request-reveals-rising-obesity/
• Sunderland Echo reveals that council workers’ pension funds invested in tobacco firms and manufacturers of cluster bombs: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2011/news/trainee-reporter-makes-bombshell-discovery/
• Brighton Argus reveals investigation into three hospital workers over the suspicious death of a patient: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2011/news/newspapers-foi-request-uncovered-hospital-death-probe/
HoldtheFrontPage publisher Paul Linford said: “We believe these and other stories in our archive show why the Freedom of Information Act already strikes a good balance between the public’s right to know and the need for sensitive information to be protected, and does not require further amendment.
“We also believe it demonstrates the manifest absurdity of the recent comments by Cabinet minister Chris Grayling, who said that journalists using the Freedom of Information Act to “create stories” amounted to a “misuse” of the legislation.
“In fact, far from being used frivolously or vexatiously, the Freedom of Information Act has become an essential tool for journalists in ensuring public authorities in their local areas are accountable to the people they serve.
“It is important that journalists are able to continue to do this valuable work without the introduction of further exemptions, and without the imposition of burdensome charges.”
HoldtheFrontPage along with Press Gazette is backing the ‘Hands Off FoI’ campaign launched by the Society of Editors at its annual conference last month.
The Commission, made up largely of opponents of FoI, is expected to recommend a watering-down of the current legislation.