The mission of the Freedom of the Press committee is to safeguard press freedoms and to educate the community about them.
News and Updates on Freedom of the Press Issues:
The letter requested that Reed have charges against Judy Kim of Georgia State University’s Signal newspaper and Alisen Redmon of Kennesaw State University’s Sentinel Newspaper be dropped. The three journalists were charged with obstruction of traffic on November 5, 2011 after police said they refused to move from a protest area at Woodruff Park.
According to Mayor Reed on October 15, the charges will be dropped.
By: Georgia First Amendment Foundation
We wanted to update you about House Bill 1176, and some of its provisions that may undermine open government and transparency in Georgia. We hope that the Georgia Senate will remove the anti-access provisions. The language in the bill goes way beyond allowing a judge to carefully expunge somebody’s criminal record where they have demonstrated it is appropriate.
In many circumstances, it calls for automatically sealing all criminal records, including routine police records, when charges are dismissed or when someone is found not guilty. There would be no way to evaluate whether that result was fair to the victims of the crime or to determine if the police acted improperly in the first place.
It creates a real risk that a lot of decisions made by police and prosecutors will be secret forever. That’s a very bad idea.
It also will lead to a system where the public is wondering if the information given to them about someone’s criminal history is filled with holes. Our government should not be picking and choosing what parts of the truth about the criminal justice system that it wants to share with its citizens.
Please call your legislators about these concerns, and feel free to contact us with questions. Thank you for your help in this effort.
The Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s Update on the Open Records Bill
By Hollie Manheimer, Executive Director of Georgia First Amendment Foundation
March 20, 2012
Click here: HB 397 Open Gov Bill
Senate Panel OKs Proposed Public Records Changes
By Errin Haines, Associated Press Reporter and Atlanta Press Club Board of Directors
March 19, 2012
ATLANTA (AP) – Legislation to change Georgia’s open government laws could soon come up for a vote in the state Senate now that a committee has approved a bill that would make obtaining public documents cheaper while stiffening penalties for illegally withholding public information and shortening the window of public scrutiny for candidates for university president.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday recommended sending the bill to the full Senate for a vote. The House overwhelmingly passed the proposal earlier this month.
“A lot of the inconsistencies that stop us from appropriate enforcement will no longer be the case,” said Attorney General Sam Olens, who spoke in favor of the bill during the hearing. “This should be it. There should be no more amendments.”
During Monday’s hearing, concerns were raised about a pair of amendments. One would allow an exemption for the state’s economic development department, which argued that sensitive deals could be otherwise jeopardized. Another would shorten the window of public scrutiny for people being considered to run the state’s colleges or its university system – the Board of Regents requested the change because it says the current 14-day requirement poses a risk of losing talented applicants. Both were adopted.
Tom Clyde, a private attorney who represents the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, objected to the amendment regarding university presidents, saying that five days is not long enough to scrutinize candidates for such an important role.
“There is really no more newsworthy event in the state than the attempt to identify and select the president of one of our major university units,” Clyde said. “Reducing that amount of time simply puts the system in a position where it cannot work.”
Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said that although the economic development exemption does not apply to municipal governments, the law could have an unintended trickle-down effect if it passes.
“We don’t need another exception in Georgia,” she told the panel.
The Associated Press is part of the foundation.
The cost of getting government documents would drop to 10 cents from 25 cents per page. Government officials who unlawfully withhold public records could face a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense, an increase over the current maximum fine of $500. Additional violations within a one-year period would carry a maximum $2,500 penalty.
The bill now heads to the Senate Rules committee.
Click here to follow Errin Haines on Twitter