Stars and Stripes can’t invoke FOIA, but it can get around that limitation
By Tobias Naegele, Stars and Stripes, June 23, 2016
A newspaper should inform, entertain and, most important, watch out for its readers. Investigative reporting is at the heart of every newspaper’s First Amendment responsibility and mission. It’s how newspapers act as watchdogs for the communities they serve, questioning and probing policymakers, agencies and institutions.
One of the core tools journalists use to do that is the Freedom of Information Act, a federal statute that obligates the government to open up its files to journalists and the public at large. The act is supposed to ensure government transparency and protect from disclosure only that information that poses a risk to national security or the privacy of individuals.
Known by its acronym, FOIA, the act is one of the most critical tools for any investigative journalist, providing legal recourse should access be denied and ensuring that, when a request is upheld by the courts, the government, and not the news media, must pay its legal fees.
Yet one newspaper is excluded from FOIA under the law: Stars and Stripes. Indeed, it’s the only U.S.-focused news organization incapable of leveraging this powerful federal law.
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