As states move to hide details of government deals with Wall Street, and as politicians come up with new arguments to defend secrecy, a study released earlier this month revealed that many government information officers block specific journalists they dont like from accessing information.
The news comes as 47 federal inspectors general sent a letter to lawmakers criticizing serious limitations on access to records that they say have impeded their oversight work.
The data about public information officers was compiled over the past few years by Kennesaw State University Prof. Dr. Carolyn Carlson. Her surveys found that four in 10 public information officers say there are specific reporters they will not allow their staff to talk to due to problems with their stories in the past.
That horrified us that so many would do that, Carlson told the Columbia Journalism Review, which reported on her presentation at the July conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Carlson has conducted surveys of journalists and public information officers since 2012. In her most recent survey of 445 working journalists, four out of five reported that their interviews must be approved by government information officers, and more than half of the reporters said they had actually been prohibited from interviewing [government] employees at least some of the time by public information officers.
In recent years, there have been signs that the federal government is reducing the flow of public information.
Reason Magazine has reported a 114% increase in Freedom of Information Act rejections by the Drug Enforcement Agency since President Obama took office.
The National Security Agency has also issued blanket rejections of FOIA requests about its metadata program. And the Associated Press reported earlier this year that in 2013, the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times a 57% increase over a year earlier and more than double Obamas first year.