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Governments Delay Access to Public Records During Pandemic

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Governors from 20 states have delayed giving the Associated Press (AP) records on how businesses and health officials have influenced their decisions to reopen their economies.

What We Know:

  • David A. Lieb of AP said last May, the organization asked for copies of communications between governors’ offices, state health directors, and groups representing businesses, health care providers, and local governments about the coronavirus. The organization has been waiting for nine months for complete information. He reported that some denied the requests, asked for payments, need more time, or have not responded.
  • By August, the AP had one-third of states’ records; the news site revealed that some governors permit businesses to help write the reopening rules. Doing this would affect their industries. Alongside this, the office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued two documents. One was from a hospital association asking to resume elective procedures, and another came from a mayor’s group about the guidelines to opening swimming pools and camps.
  • Delaware’s Gov. John Carney did not fulfill the AP’s request until Feb. 10, after he reversed a suspension to his state’s deadline for public records request during the COVID-19 public emergency. He only released 109 pages and said more would come later. The article also mentions other states whose governors were committing similar actions. The writing declares that more than half a dozen states are still suspending open-records requirements due to gubernatorial orders. Other states are also relaxing deadlines for requests.
  • Lieb mentions that public records are more difficult to obtain due to shutdowns. Governors, legislatures, and local officials have either suspended or ignored laws for deadlines to respond to record requests. These officials claim staffers are working from home or dealing with crisis management. It has resulted in an extreme delay of information about their leader’s decisions.

“The pandemic rages on, but investigative journalism doesn’t halt. The public’s right to know doesn’t cease to exist,” assured Gunita Singh, a legal fellow at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press.

  • New data also shows that the requests for government information elevated during the pandemic. The article cites that state, county, and city governments saw an increase in time spent on public records. From the first to last quarter, time spent went from 346 hours to 2,121 hours.

Lieb wrote that the United States is not the only country delaying access to public records. According to a joint tracking effort from the Centre for Law and Democracy and Access Info Europe, dozens of countries halted the public’s right-to-information policies during the pandemic. Many open-government advocates are upset with this, as it could impact the transparency and public participation inside the nations.

The post Governments Delay Access to Public Records During Pandemic appeared first on Black News Alerts.

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