NUJ calls on journalists to back FOI campaign with subject access requests

  • 09 Feb 2021

Union concerned about illegitimate monitoring and journalists being put on a "blacklist".

The NUJ has called on journalists in the UK to submit Subject Access Requests, in order to establish just how the government is centrally managing Freedom of Information applications from the media, and what information they are holding about journalists and their requests.

Media reporting has highlighted the existence of a Clearing House based at the Cabinet Office that is managing and coordinating FOI requests from across government. The NUJ is concerned that this amounts to illegitimate monitoring and risks journalists being put on a "blacklist".

The union is asking journalists to submit Subject Access Requests to the same government departments as they have previously submitted their FOI requests.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"At the core of all public interest journalism is the urge to search out information, shine light in dark corners, scrutinise and hold power to account.
"The media industry is united in backing a campaign to expand the right to information and secure greater transparency in public life. We want our government to be less secretive, not more.
"That is why the existence of a so-called Clearing House, profiling requests, stonewalling requests and essentially thwarting and blocking journalistic scrutiny is so disturbing and outrageous.

"The government's response to date has been woefully lacking. That's why the NUJ is asking journalists to do what they do best and flush out what is really going on in the heart of government.
"Anyone who's submitted FOI requests to government should now follow up with a Subject Access Request that is linked to their original submission. We need to get to the bottom of how this secret Clearing House is operating and establish just how media requests are being treated."

The NUJ's call comes after an openDemocracy public letter, signed by the NUJ and other media industry leaders, demanding MPs urgently investigate the government's current approach to FOI.

Download the NUJ template letter to submit a subject access request:

Guidance on drafting a Subject Access Request from the Information Commissioner's Office.

Submit your Subject Access Request to the same government department as you submitted your original FOI request and please send a copy to [email protected] 

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