Signed and delivered: Don't Kill FoI petition is in Blair's hands

Press Gazette has warned the Government that it risks alienating the UK's journalists if it presses ahead with plans to water down the Freedom of Information Act.

On Tuesday, we presented a petition to 10 Downing Street and the Department for Constitutional Affairs, signed by 1,250 journalists opposing the proposed Freedom of Information and Data Protection Regulations.

Consultation on the proposed law change — which would vastly increase the number of FoI requests turned down on cost grounds, irrespective of the public interest — closes today.

Nearly 200 newspaper, broadcast and magazine editors have signed the petition, including almost every national newspaper editor.

National editors on the final list are:
Rebekah Wade, The Sun
Colin Myler, News of the World
John Witherow, Sunday Times
Veronica Wadley, Evening Standard
Roger Alton, The Observer
Patience Wheatcroft, Sunday Telegraph
Tina Weaver, Sunday Mirror
Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian
Paul Dacre, Daily Mail
Will Lewis, Daily Telegraph
Robert Thomson, The Times
Mark Thomas, The People.

The DCA is now expected to respond to the consultation within the next three months.

The National Union of Journalists also handed in a 10-page response condemning the FoI proposals this week.

In it the union states: “FoI has provided a means to help reporters maintain their role as information providers to the public. There is a widespread feeling that the DCA’s proposals will gravely imperil this function.”

The union also argues that “…the introduction of consideration and consultation time into the cost calculations will be misleading and unfair,” and it asserts that “the NUJ can see little more at stake than bureaucratic convenience.”

Handing over the submission, NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Freedom of Information has been one of the positive human rights-based reforms of the present government.

“The Act has been enormously useful to journalists wanting to dig deeper into the institutions running our democracy and has helped them reveal uncomfortable truths which the public has a right to know about.

“Now we are seeing a backlash from the powers that be, who have found the reach of the Act has shone light into areas they would prefer to remain in the dark.

“We welcome recent government assurances that the amendment will not be rushed in by the stated deadline of mid-April and are confident that the careful consideration of the responses will lead to the draft regulations being abandoned.”

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