What: Rally for Massachusetts Public Records Reform

Where: Steps of the Massachusetts State House

When: 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 (Right before the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address.)

Why: To create momentum to get a good bill passed.

Contact: SPJ New England Chapter President Danielle McLean- [email protected]508-725-8716

Without a functioning public records law, government in Massachusetts operates in the dark. It is not accountable or transparent.

According to the Boston Globe, the Bay State “earned a grade of F and ranked 40th, below states such as Mississippi and Arkansas, in the category of public records access, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization.” A Northeastern University study found in December that 58% of the state’s local governments could not even meet the standards of the present law.

A bill passed last year by the Massachusetts House of Representatives that would improve the situation is insufficient. In some ways it makes things worse.

As the Massachusetts Senate considers this legislation the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, as part of the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 organizations, calls upon all reporters, editors, publishers, media executives, and open record advocates Thursday at 4:30PM to join us on the steps on the Massachusetts State House tell their story. To quote our partner, the ACLU of Massachusetts, “Inequality thrives in the shadows. Free speech withers when basic facts are hidden.”

We seek nothing more from the Senate than that they ensure:

ENFORCEMENT

FIRM TIME FRAMES FOR PROVIDING RECORDS – delay is a form of denial

A STRAIGHTFORWARD, EFFECTIVE APPEALS PROCESS – real remedies without a legal maze.

MANDATORY ATTORNEY FEES – most state require fee awards when officials violate the law

AFFORDABILITY

REDUCED FEES FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION – affordability = access. No information tax. Access to our records is a baseline right in a democracy that ensures freedom of inquiry and the right to dissent.

FOIA RALLY
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