New York, June 24, 2019 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed concern over a U.S. Supreme Court decision that restricts journalists’ access to government records.
The case, Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, arose out of a 2011 Freedom of Information Act request filed by the South Dakota newspaper Argus Leader, which sought documents from the U.S. Agricultural Department, according to news reports. Today, the Supreme Court ruled against the newspaper by a margin of six justices to three, blocking the release of the information and thereby expanding the scope of documents that are exempt from public disclosure, according to those reports.
“In order to hold institutions to account, journalists often need to petition the government to make documents public,” said CPJ North America Program Coordinator Alexandra Ellerbeck. “Today’s ruling will undermine the ability of reporters to access the information they need to do their jobs and is a blow to the transparency of the United States government.”
The court’s ruling negates a precedent that required officials seeking to block disclosures to demonstrate that making information public would cause “foreseeable harm,” and instead allows for disclosure requests to be denied simply because material is deemed “confidential,” as CPJ warned could occur in an article published in April.