Journalists’ Rights Still Hang in the Balance as We Observe Another Sunshine in Government Week

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Sunshine in Government Week is an annual event designed to highlight the need for transparency and accountability by our government officials, and the News/Media Alliance is committed to this goal by protecting our free and independent press, whose coverage makes that transparency and accountability possible.

According to Pew Research Center, only 16% of Americans trust the federal government all or most of the time, the lowest in 70 years. This means that it’s more important than ever that we have access to information about what the government is doing and why.

Journalists are key to how this happens, providing important news and information on the activities of our elected officials and local policymakers and ensuring transparency and truthfulness in their decision-making and spending of taxpayer money. Journalists play the critical role of a watchdog for the community, which is why it is important to invest in the tools that allow journalists to perform their important work. As such, as we commemorate Sunshine Week, the Alliance is focused on three key ways to support the free press in promoting government transparency: protecting the right to obtain public information easily, protecting the identities of confidential sources, and the ability to conduct newsgathering without harm.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests

Requesting records under FOIA is a critical tool for journalists to be able to provide a window of transparency into government actions, especially when public officials may be hesitant to share information.  However, in recent years FOIA requests have been met with excessively long response times (the average response time is 278 days – 258 days longer than the 20 days allowed!), no response at all, or in some cases, the information provided is so heavily redacted it becomes virtually unreadable. Data shows that only 26.91% of FOIA requests receive a response and result in new information being released to the public.

The Alliance is tracking state efforts to improve freedom of information laws and supporting journalists in lawsuits seeking to obtain information from an agency refusing to provide it.


Laws that protect journalists during the newsgathering process and protect their ability to report the truth and hold public officials accountable are also incredibly important to preserving their watchdog function in communities. The PRESS Act (Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act) would establish reasonable ground rules for when the government can obtain confidential source information from journalists and their third-party service providers obtained throughout the newsgathering process. With the Alliance’s support, the House of Representatives recently unanimously passed the bill and it is now awaiting Senate action.

Journalist Protection Act

The Journalist Protection Act, introduced in the House and Senate last year by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA-14) would strengthen protections for journalists by making intentionally harming or intimidating a working journalist a federal crime. Unfortunately, in 2023 alone, 45 journalists were assaulted in the United States, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, and 99 journalists and media workers around the world were killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In November, the Alliance released an episode of its News Take: Free Press Focus podcast that drew attention to the need for this important legislation in the wake of the fifth anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, MD in 2018. Paul Gillespie, a photojournalist with the Capital Gazette, shared his harrowing account with us of that day and how journalists work to support their communities.

This Sunshine in Government Week, journalists’ rights still hang in the balance. The Alliance will continue to support journalists in their efforts to increase government transparency and work to shore up protections for journalists reporting on their activities, by calling for the PRESS Act and Journalist Protection Act to be passed into law. Our journalists perform an essential and critical role in the pursuit of the truth for the betterment of society and they deserve to have their rights – and their safety – protected.


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