RTNDA joins RCFP in Virginia FOIA law brief

January 8, 2013 01:30

RTDNA joins the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) in arguing that a Virgina law restricting Freedom of Information requests to state residents is unconstitutional.

In the case of McBurney v. Young, RCFP asks the justices to reverse a Fourth Circuit decision to uphold the law, which includes provisions exempting media within the state.

RCFP's brief, which was joined by dozesn of media organizations across the country, says in part, "...by allowing states to enact open records laws that discriminate against non-residents, the Court will be sanctioning a practice that directly harms the media’s ability to gather and disseminate news that provides a full and accurate account of re-gional and national events." It questions the singling out of newspaper and broadcast outlets as being different from online outlets, and also raises the prospect that Virginia's law violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Consititution, which says people may be considered residents of a state or of the nation as a whole.

Similar resitrictions on Freedom of Information requests are already on the books in Alabama, Arkansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Tennessee.

“RTDNA believes this is a very important legal issue, not only in Virginia, but in other states which have similar restrictions,” said Mike Cavender, Executive Director. “The right to access public records must not be limited based on residency or circulation requirements.”