Journalists must not get second-class treatment on FOI requests to the Scottish government
14 June 2018
NUJ's response to the Scottish Information Commissioner's report which found that the Scottish government takes longer to respond to journalists' FOI requests than other requests. John Toner, NUJ Scotland organiser, said:
"Daren Fitzhenry's report is a serious and shaming indictment of the Scottish government, and it clearly confirms what many journalists have suspected for some time. Journalists act on behalf of the public, and should not be treated as second-class citizens. We note that the SNP government has accepted the recommendations in full, but this is clearly an issue that we will continue to monitor."
The report's main finding:
- It is an important principle of FOI law that, in most cases, it should not matter who asks for information. The practice of referring requests for clearance by ministers simply because they come from journalists, MSPs and researchers is inconsistent with that principle.
- The Scottish government's FOI policies and procedures are not clear enough about the role of special advisers in responding to FOI requests.
- The Scottish government takes longer to respond to journalists' FOI requests than other requests, but in only one case did the commissioner find evidence that delay was deliberate.
- The Scottish government's FOI practice has improved significantly over the last year, following the Commissioner's first intervention: average response times to all requests, including journalists' requests have reduced.
- The commissioner makes seven recommendations for further specific improvements to: clearance procedures; quality assurance of FOI responses; training; case handling and case records management; monitoring FOI requests and review procedures.