20 Feb SPJ Western Washington announces opposition to House Bill 1888
The Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Professional Chapter today submitted testimony opposing House Bill 1888, which would exempt key information about public employees from public disclosure. Below is our testimony.
Before you this week is a decision with significant consequences for public disclosure, one in which this state’s Supreme Court has already issued a decision. As lawmakers, you are faced with a choice: to eclipse information about publicly-paid employees, orto allow sunshine to continue in Washington state.
It’s with that in mind that the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Professional Chapter urges you to vote “no” on House Bill 1888.
SPJ Western Washington is a professional organization providing training and resources for journalists in our region. We are committed to broadly applied public disclosure laws, and oppose efforts to tamper all citizens’ rights to access information about their government.
As you have already heard from journalists in Washington state, access to identifying information can be critical for reporters investigating misconduct by public employees. A birth date is often the only way to confirm that a public employee accused of a crime is, in fact, the same person, or whether they simply share a name.
It appears the Legislature recognizes the needs of journalists, and while we appreciate the amendments to try to address the issue, we remain skeptical of any legislation that seeks to hamper public disclosure for all. We believe one should be able to access information about those who work for and on behalf of them, regardless of their profession. Gatekeeping who can and cannot access information is contrary to our belief that a thriving democracy relies on an informed public.
We are also wary of legislation that allows the news media to be defined by a political body. Journalists are increasingly facing attacks from all levels of government, from the White House to city halls. To leave it up to state legislators to decide who is or is not a journalist is deeply concerning.
As you are aware, the state Supreme Court has already issued a ruling in this matter. We urge you to respect their decision, and vote no on this legislation.
Thank you for your consideration,
Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Professional Chapter